Many artists become world famous, but many more are known and appreciated only in their local communities. Today, I am writing about an artist who falls somewhere in the middle. This artist is famous, but certainly not on the scale of Da Vinci or Renoir. This woman is known my most for basically one thing; her age. By now I'm guessing that you've figured out I'm talking about Grandma Moses. Since tomorrow is the anniversary of her birth and has been designated at National Grandma Moses Day, I am dedicating today's blog to a few facts about this pretty remarkable American artist.
"Grandma" was born Anna Mary Robertson on the 7 September 1860. She was the third of ten children. As a child, Anna Mary attended a one-room schoolhouse for only a short time. It is interesting to note that the school now serves as the Bennington Museum in Vermont and houses the largest collection of her work in the United States. mary developed a love for art from her art lessons at her tiny rural school. her early paints were simple things like lemon and grape juice which she used to color her landscapes. "Other natural materials that she used to create works of art included ground ochre, grass, flour paste, slack lime, and sawdust." But, at the age of 12, young Anna Mary left her home and school where she began working for a wealthy neighboring family, performing chores on their farm. She continued to keep house, cook and sew for wealthy families for 15 years. One of the families that she worked for—the Whitesides—noticed her interest in their Currier and Ives prints and purchased chalk and wax crayons so that she could create her own artwork.
Anna Mary was 27 when she found herself working on a farm with a hired man named Thomas Salmon Moses. They were married and soon after settled themselves near Staunton, Virginia. There, they continued to live and work at various farms for the next several decades. The Moses had ten children but only five survived past infancy.
As a young wife and mother, Moses was creative around their home. In 1932, Mrs. Moses began creating pictures made from colored yarns. She also made "beautiful quilted objects...her form of what was called hobby art." By the age of 76, mary had developed arthritis which made embroidery work painful. It was her sister Celestia who suggested that painting might be easier for her to do. it was this idea that spurred Anna Mary's art career in her late 70s. "What appeared to be an interest in painting at a late age was a manifestation of a childhood dream. With no time in her difficult farm-life to pursue painting, she was obliged to set aside her passion to paint. At age 92 she wrote, "I was quite small, my father would get me and my brothers white paper by the sheet. he liked to see us draw pictures, it was a penny a sheet and lasted longer than candy." It was her father's encouragement that fed her passion to paint and this dream was able to manifest later in her life."
Anna Mary painted scenes of rural life from earlier days. She referred to her style as "old-timey" New England landscapes. She would get inspiration and begin painting. from her obituary in the New York Times, she was quoted as having said about painting, "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." She omitted modern features like tractors and telephone poles from her paintings.
Her early style was less primitive and more realistic than her later works. "Initially she created simple compositions or copied existing images. As her career advanced she created complicated, panoramic compositions of rural life" Grandma Moses was a prolific painter and generated over 1,500 canvasses in her three decades as an artist. Initially, Moses charges $3 and $5 for each painting but as her fame increased, so did the price. later works sold for $8,000 to $10,000 dollars. "During the 1950s, her exhibitions broke attendance records around the world. Art historian Judith Stein noted: 'A cultural icon, the spry, productive nonagenarian was continually cited as an inspiration for housewives, widows, and retirees.' Her paintings were reproduced on Hallmark greeting cards, tiles, fabrics, and ceramics. They were also used to market products, like coffee, lipstick, cigarettes, and cameras."
Her husband died in 1927 and Moses never remarried. Anna Mary was known as either "Mother Moses" or "Grandma Moses," and although she first exhibited as "Mrs. Moses," the press dubbed her "Grandma Moses," and the nickname stuck.
I learned lots of interesting stuff about this unique artist...hope you did, too. This does it for me this week. But never fear, the frog will be back on Monday. Until then, have a great weekend and whatever you do, stay safe.