Moses, Grandma

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

The artist Grandma Moses became famous for her simple, bright, cheerful paintings of American farm life. Her full name was Anna Mary Robertson Moses. But she was known to everyone as Grandma Moses because she did not begin to paint seriously until she was in her seventies.

Anna Mary Robertson was born on September 7, 1860, on a farm in Greenwich, New York. She was one of ten children. Life on the farm was hard, and Anna had little schooling. Her days were filled with farm chores—feeding the animals, gathering eggs, and making soap. But she often found time to make pictures. Because she had no proper paints, she used house paint, scraps of colored paper, the juice of wild berries, and even laundry bluing for her colors.

Soon, however, she became too busy to draw or paint. At the age of 12, she went to work as a servant for a family nearby. She worked for other people for many years. Then, when she was 27, she married Thomas Moses, a farmer. And they began raising a family of their own. They moved to a farm near Staunton, Virginia, and later to another at Eagle Bridge, New York. Thomas Moses died there in 1927.

As she grew older, Anna Moses could no longer do heavy farmwork. She took up needlework, but her hands became too stiff to continue. Then, in her seventies, she began to paint in oils. Her pictures showed things she recalled from childhood—farm scenes, small villages, picnics, ice-skating, bringing home the Christmas tree. The forms were simple, and the colors bright and cheerful.

Grandma Moses had a fine memory for detail, and her pictures recorded a way of life that was quickly passing away. People everywhere loved these happy scenes, and soon her paintings were shown in art galleries. She continued to paint almost until her death, on December 13, 1961, at the age of 101.

Reviewed by Jane Kallir
Author, Grandma Moses: The Artist Behind the Myth

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