Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grandma Moses

Sugaring Off
oil on canvas
size unknown
Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, NY, USA
-Fair use-
Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses; 1860-1961) is a self-taught renowned American folk artist. She did not begin painting until her late 70s. Her paintings provide nostalgic glimpses of daily life in rural New York and Virginia. This one was painted when she was at the age of 85.

She was born on a farm in Greenwich, upstate New York, one of a family of 10 children. She left home at a young age to work as a hired girl at a neighboring farm. Marrying in 1887, she eventually gave birth to 10 children (5 of whom survived past infancy). In addition to her work as a farm wife and mother, she helped support her family by selling various homemade foods.

She disliked spending time knitting and sewing, but she began entertaining herself and her friends by making needlework pictures and quilts portraying colorful scenes of farm life. At 78, when arthritis rendered her unable to embroider, friends suggested she try painting these scenes instead. She worked with whatever materials were at hand, used house paint and leftover canvas or fireboard for her first paintings. As a self-taught artist, she had little concern for perspective or proportion. Although familiar with the hardships and sorrow of farm life, she illustrated happy childhood memories of fields and storms, barn dances, and holidays in rural New York and Virginia. She deliberately omitted telephone poles, tractors, and other elements of the effects of industrialization.

A New York collector chanced upon her work and helped her begin exhibiting professionally. She gained the nickname “Grandma Moses” from a reviewer at New York's Herald Tribune. Her paintings became immensely popular and were appreciated for their nostalgic charm. She exhibited her work internationally into her 90s and painted until a few months before her death. By the time she died at age 101, she had produced over 3,600 paintings.