Saturday, September 7, 2013

Celebrating Grandma Moses

"Moving Day on the Farm" - Grandma Moses

Anna Mary Robertson was born on September 7, 1860.  She grew up in New York, then married Thomas Moses and moved to Virginia.  Several years later, the couple returned to New York. After Thomas died in 1927, Mrs. Moses continued to farm with the help of her son.  Besides practicing domestic arts such as making jams and preserves, Mrs. Moses was talented with a needle. She made many embroidery projects for friends and family.  When arthritis made using a needle difficult, Anna Mary turned to painting. She was 76 years old. I think you can see the influence of needlework designs in her paintings.

Grandma Moses painting

Grandma Moses' painting career spanned 25 years.  Early in her painting career, she gave paintings away as gifts, or sold small paintings for $2 and large paintings for $3.  Years after her death, her painting Sugaring Off sold for over $1 million.  She exhibited as Mrs. Moses, staging her first formal art exhibit in the 1940s.  The press quickly dubbed her as Grandma Moses, however, and the moniker stuck. Always wanting to stay busy, Grandma Moses  painted over 1,600 pieces.  She said, "Painting is not important.  The important thing is keeping busy."

"Sugaring Off" - Grandma Moses

Grandma Moses is known as an American folk artist.  She painted scenes around her home in New York, and activities in her community like apple butter making.  After her death, her art work was exhibited in Europe and became very popular there.  While she is often held up as an example of starting a new career late in life, I don't think she ever intended to have a career in art. She was very creative and used her talents around her home and in making gifts for others.  The fact that she became a famous artist and made money at it was probably a surprise to her.  She is quoted as saying "A primitive artist is an amateur whose work sells."  She also said if she hadn't started painting, she probably would have raised chickens.

Grandma Moses' art was used in her lifetime to promote products.  She was honored with a postage stamp in 1969.  She was also on the cover of Life magazine in 1960 to celebrate her 100th birthday. She died a little more than a year later at the age of 101.  Her work had been reproduced on everything from curtains to cookie jars.  

Grandma Moses, painting

Grandma Moses was born near the beginning of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln was president.  She saw everything from horse and buggy travel to airplanes.  Her paintings captured a slice of American life that is rapidly disappearing.  She leaves a wonderful legacy of life and art behind.  Happy Birthday, Grandma Moses!

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