Who Was Grandma Moses?

  • by Erin Keatch

Textile Winter Scene by Grandma Moses

 

Anna Mary Robertson Moses (September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961), or Grandma Moses, was an American folk artist. She actually began painting diligently at the age of 78 and is a great example of a newly successful art career at an advanced age. Her works have been shown and sold worldwide, including in museums, Her painting Sugaring Off was sold for US$1.2 million in 2006.

 The New York Times said about her work: "The simple realism, nostalgic atmosphere and luminous color with which Grandma Moses portrayed simple farm life and rural countryside won her a wide following. She was able to capture the excitement of winter's first snow, Thanksgiving preparations and the new, young green of oncoming spring... In person, Grandma Moses charmed wherever she went. A tiny, lively woman with mischievous gray eyes and a quick wit, she could be sharp-tongued with a sycophant and stern with an errant grandchild."

She had a very interesting life, and was a live-in housekeeper for a total of 15 years, incredibly starting at the age of 12. An employer noticed that she was interested in their artwork and gave her drawing materials. At age 27 she met her husband and they established themselves working on local farms near Virginia, where they had 10 children, 5 of whom survived infancy. After her husband passed away in 1927, she never re-married and became affectionately known as “Grandma Moses.”

 

Her charming artwork received national acclaim, and commanded high prices in galleries worldwide. As the world became more industrialized in the 1950’s, her artwork resonated with people who were seeking a simpler way of life. Much of that sentiment can be seen now, living in an “electronic” age, with people feeling nostalgic for a more comforting, slower pace of life.

 

Moses painted scenes of rural life, from earlier days, which she called "old-timey" New England landscapes. Moses said that she would "get an inspiration and start painting; then I'll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.” From her works of art, she omitted features of modern life, such as tractors and telephone poles.

 

In 1952, she published her autobiography, My Life's History. In it she said "I look back on my life like a good day's work, it was done and I feel satisfied with it. I was happy and contented, I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be."

Her paintings were reproduced on greeting cards, tiles, fabrics, and ceramics.

Textile Winter Scene by Grandma Moses

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