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!
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,
and making apple butter,
went sledding and ice skating in the winter.
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 –
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.
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.
So my second career was being a wife and mother while farming. I also made and sold butter…
…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.
Well, my daughter encouraged me to embroider scenes out of yarn as presents for my friends and family.
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.
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.
No tractors or telephone poles or cars or airplanes or television sets…
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.
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.”
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…
and famous people started collecting my paintings, and they wrote books about me and made movies about me.
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.
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.
Watch the video about me too!