Folk Art and Grandma Moses


"The Quilting Bee" 1940 - 1950

When I think of the term "Folk Art" it conjures up the vision of art of the people. Wikipedia describes it as art created by an indigenous culture, peasants and tradespeople. In essence, it is art of the people. Folk Art encompasses a wide variety of mediums that are generally utilitarian in nature rather than being created for aesthetic purposes only. Characteristically folk artists have gained skills through apprenticeships and are not academically trained. Many are self taught. Grandma Moses (1860 -1961) born Anna Mary Robertson is often noted as coming into painting in the later part her life. The truth is she was introduced to painting during childhood. Her father liked to see his children draw and would supply Anna and her brothers with paper to do so. It would occupy them for hours. Anna would use lemon and grape juice along with other natural materials to create colors to paint her landscapes.

"Garden of Praise"

Growing up on a farm where her father ran a flax mill didn't leave much time for pursuing the arts with any consistency. At 12 Anna became a house keeper and continued in that occupation for years. At 27 she met her husband Thomas Moses. They eventually purchased their own farm had a family. Anna was always creating and using her hands. She made quilted objects and embroidered pictures until she came down with arthritis in her mid 70's. It was at this point that she began to re-unite with the painter inside. By this time her husband had passed and she was living with her daughter. Painting was easier for her and encouraged by her sister as the embroidery became too painful. Moses created what she called "old-timey" landscapes. Some of them reflect her childhood love of paintings done by Currier and Ives. The scenes envelope the viewer in a story that often depicts a sense of community and rural life. The forms are simple and lack traditional perspective which make them all the more engaging and easy to relate to in my opinion. While there is a childlike quality to them the detailed expression seems to speak to someone with maturity and experience.

"Sugartime" 1960 16" x 24"

She began to get noticed at the age of 80, eventually getting published on the cover of Time and Life Magazines. Perhaps her biggest supporter was Louis J. Caldor who purchased a collection of her paintings that were featured in a drugstore window in Hoosick Falls, NY. Caldor then convinced the Museum of Modern Art to include the works in a members only show of contemporary folk painting. Today Grandma Moses is one of the best know American artists in history and her paintings are included in collections at the Metropolitan Museum in NY as well as several others in the US.


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