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Grandma Moses Biography for Kids

Image of collage of pictures with pink block on which is written Grandma Moses Biography for Kids. Painting above the pink block is of a tree and rainbow. Below the pink block is a black and white photo of an old woman, Grandma Moses, a small painting of an apple tree and picker, and another painting of a country yard with a red and white checkered house and horses in front.

Good morning, children. I am Anna Mary Robertson Moses, but that is kind of a mouthful, don’t you think? So you can call me Grandma Moses. That’s what everybody calls me now, as I am almost 100 years old!

Color picture of a woman wearing round glasses dressed up like Grandma Moses holding a jar of jam next to a black and white photo of the Grandma Moses with round glasses.

I was born in 1860 in New York and I had so many adventures with my nine brothers and sisters on our farm there. That was so long ago when we could run all over the forests and hills, spent time together washing clothes,…

Painting of trees blowing and a house in the center with a small building and laundry hanging on a line in the foreground as well as horses and a carriage on the right side with a dog also looking on - a painting called Taking in the Laundry by Grandma Moses.
Taking in the Laundry by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

…picking apples,…

Painting of three apple trees in the back with a man leaning on a wagon in which a woman is sitting with two bushels of apples. Next to the wagon to the right are gathered four people, and one person is on a ladder by a tree picking apples. This is a painting called Apple Pickers by Grandma Moses.

Apple Pickers by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

…and making apple butter,…

Painting with log cabin in lower left corner and checkered red and white house on the left front side. In the field beyond is a group of men and women cooking in a cauldron over a bonfire in a painting by Grandma Moses called Apple Butter Making.

Apple Butter Making by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

went sledding and ice skating in the winter.

Painting of a snowy scene of a hillside with a house at the top and to the left side where a sledder is walking up to the hill from the left side, a skier passes by in the center as four brown horses pulling a large round rolling piece of machinery comes in from the right. On the right side is a small pond with three people ice skating. This painting is called Sledding by Grandma Moses.

Sledding by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

My father would bring home paper sometimes, and I loved to draw. I had to use sticks for paint brushes and berries for paints because we couldn’t afford such luxuries as art equipment. I called my early paintings “lambscapes” instead of landscapes –

Photograph of a white lamb lying on its side in grass and a few dandelions.

Baa, lambscapes – and my brothers would make such fun of me! Well, I was just a poor farm girl, so by the time I was 12, I had to leave school and start a housekeeping job. So you take advantage of these school years, children!

You could say that my housekeeping jobs were my first career. I cooked, sewed and cleaned for wealthier neighbors. Then I got married at age 27 to my dear Thomas.

A painting of a wedding party where the bride and groom are standing together facing the viewer on the right side, the guests are in various groups around a yard in front of a big brick house. This painting is called Wedding by Grandma Moses.

Wedding by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

We were both farm hands and headed south to Virginia where we had a chance to farm for ourselves in the post-Civil War south during the Reconstruction of the Southern States.

First, we were tenant farmers and then we were able to save enough money to buy our own farm. We had ten children together, though sadly only five of the children made it past infancy.

Black and white photograph of a woman in her 30s, Grandma Moses, in the middle with a toddler girl and young girl sitting in front of her.
Grandma Moses with two of her children (Fair Use)

So my second career was being a wife and mother while farming. I also made and sold butter…

A stick of yellow butter with two slices cut off the right side.

…and potato chips for local groceries while I raised our children. Thomas and I were married for forty years before he died. By then, my children were grown, and I had so much time on my hands. So I started my third career in art.

I wasn’t planning on having a career in art, even though I enjoyed art my whole life and had made a few painting along the way. If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens. Or, I would rent a room in the city some place and give pancake suppers.

A picture of four chickens - two brown chickens in front with a white chicken and black speckled chicken in back.

Well, my daughter encouraged me to embroider scenes out of yarn as presents for my friends and family.

An embroidered yarn scene of a cottage with flowers in the garden in the foreground and a path on which a little girl walks on the right side of the picture.
Cottage by the Sea (worsted picture) by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

A scene of embroidered yarn of a covered bridge going over a river.

Old Bennington Bridge (worsted picture) by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

But then because of my arthritis, it became too painful for my fingers to do my “worsted pictures,” as I called them. 

So my sister suggested I start painting. You have to realize I was already in my 70s! I painted landscapes of country life, “old-timey” scenes of the New England I grew up in.

Painting of a wide yard in which a black horse is trotting in from the left near a strolling couple, a brown horse is trotting in the middle, and four brown horses lead a carriage in from the left while four white horses lead in a carriage from the right. In the back is a red and white checkered house next to red barns. This is a painting called Country Scene by Grandma Moses.

Country Scene by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

I’ll get an inspiration and start painting; then 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.

Photograph of an old woman, Grandma Moses, at her painting table with a canvas and paint brushes on the table in front of her.
Grandma Moses Painting

No tractors or telephone poles or cars or airplanes or television sets… 

Painting of country scene of rolling hills, a river in the background, a tall tree on the left side behind a gray house with a white picket fence in front of which two people walk and a white horse stands. A small creek flows into a pond separating the scene where there is a white house on the right side. This painting is called A Beautiful World by Grandma Moses.
A Beautiful World by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

A painting of a red and white checkered house with red barns in the center of the picture. In front of the house is a large dirt yard in which three carriages led by horses are trotting. Behind the houses are fields of crops. The painting is called Checkered House by Grandma Moses.
Checkered House by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

I used to send my paintings to the country fair along with my canned fruits and jams. I won a prize for my fruit and jam, but no pictures.

I also displayed my paintings at the local drugstore for $3 -$5 each. One day, an engineer from New York City, Mr. Louis Caldor, traveled through town and saw my paintings at the drugstore. He bought all of them and told me he would make me famous.

A painting of threshers in the foreground in front of a gray house and large tree in the center of the picture. A rainbow is visible behind the tree. The painting is called The Rainbow by Grandma Moses.

The Rainbow by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

Now I don’t care about fame, and I didn’t really believe him, but do you know what? Mr. Caldor took my paintings to New York and showed them to art dealers. They were understandably hesitant to take a chance on a woman in her late 70s who was just starting painting, not to mention it was WWII, but Mr. Otto Kallir agreed to give me a one-woman show, which we called “What a Farm Wife Painted.”

Painting of a large gray house in the center of the picture with barns on either side in the foreground. in the background are rolling hills, a blue sky and white puffy clouds. The painting is called Oaken Bucket by Grandma Moses.
Oaken Bucket by Grandma Moses (Fair Use)

They called my paintings Folk Art. After that, my work got displayed at a Thanksgiving celebration at Gimbels Department Store in New York, and I gave a speech about my fruits and jams. For some reason, the press really liked my speech, and then my art got displayed in many places around America and the world, and a greeting card company started printing my paintings on their cards…

Greeting card of painting of winter snow scene where two horses lead a sleigh down the hill while two other horses take a carriage to the top of a hill to a pink house by a large frozen pond. The painting is called Home from Church by Grandma Moses.
Grandma Moses greeting card photo (Fair Use)

Greeting card with painting of a winter scene where snow covers a yard of a brown house and horses lead in a sleigh. The painting is called Home for Christmas by Grandma Moses.
Grandma Moses greeting card photo (Fair Use)

…and famous people started collecting my paintings, and they wrote books about me and made movies about me.

Book cover with author name Otto Kallir, title Grandma Moses and painting of winter scene of snow covered houses on the cover.
Grandma Moses by Otto Kallir book cover (Fair Use)

Cover of book with title Grandma Moses and photograph of old woman, Grandma Moses, painting a paper on a table in front of her.
American Women of Achievement: Grandma Moses Painter book cover (Fair Use)

Cover of book from series Getting to Know the World's Great Artists with title Grandma Moses and painting of winter scene.
Grandma Moses by Mike Venezia book cover (Fair Use)

Now, isn’t that silly?

So, mothers out there, I want you to remember that there is a season for everything. Right now, you are busy being mothers, raising your children, cleaning and cooking, maybe doing some farming and making jam. But later, you may have a chance to take up painting or music or something you just don’t have time for. It’s never too late!

You can see a large collection of my folk art at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont.

Photograph of the front of Bennington Museum - a two-story stone building with white pillars and bars on the windows.

Bennington Museum (Fair Use)

Children, here is what you may want to remember about me. My name is Grandma Moses. I lived from 1860 to 1961. I am an American Grandma who became a famous painter in the genre of Folk Art.

Investigate the life and art works of Grandma Moses in this artist unit study!

Watch the video about me too!

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Grandma Moses (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia

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