Anna Mary Robertson (aka Grandma Moses) was one of America’s most beloved self-taught artists. For 15 years, starting at age 12, she was a live-in housekeeper in a small rural community in upstate New York. Her employers noticed her admiration for their Currier & Ives prints and gifted her with an art supply kit of wax crayons and chalks. This was the beginning of her love for art, which ultimately included using such unusual materials as her own mix of flour paste, lemon and grape juice, grass, and even sawdust as paints. She also perfected her quilting and embroidery skills, until painful arthritis made it too difficult and she decided to exclusively paint at age 78.
She married Thomas Moses and together they lived the life of simple farmers with their five children. After her husband died in 1927, she earned the nickname of Grandma Moses. She started out selling her works for as little as $3 until she was discovered by art collector Louis Caldor. By the 1940’s, she was represented by Galerie St. Etienne and skyrocketed to international fame. Her positive outlook and quick homespun wit charmed the world.
Her painting style consisted of what she dubbed “old-timey” panoramic upstate New York landscapes. She depicted rural scenes that became so popular that they were used to commemorate American holidays in greeting cards, fabrics, and seasonal merchandise. Her paintings have a folk-art feel with complex pictorial description, flat images, linear style, and absence of perspective. She even added glitter sometimes to give a little extra sparkle.
Her 100th birthday was celebrated on the cover of Life Magazine in 1960. John F. Kennedy memorialized Grandma Moses (1860-1961) in a speech given after her death at age 101: “The directness and vividness of her paintings restored a primitive freshness to our perception of the American scene.”