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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Grandma Moses - An American Original


I love folk art! And as I shared with you in a previous post, I was fortunate enough to pick up this terrific book on Grandma Moses at the local farmers market a couple of weeks ago.  If you love the work of this iconic American artist, this is a really great book to add to your library.  Most importantly for those of us who love her artwork, there are lots of large color photos highlighting her most well known and loved pieces.  But, it is also a thoughtful and well-written biography of the artist and the inspiration behind her work.

Embroidery art by Grandma Moses


I learned a lot about Grandma Moses, who was born Anna Mary Robertson, that I never knew before.  For instance, I knew that she famously did not start painting until she was a senior citizen, but what I did not know was that she began her artistic career as a textile artist!  The photos above and below are of embroidered works she did prior to her years of painting.  Apparently, the reason she turned to painting was because her arthritis had gotten too bad for her to continue creating with needlework!  

Mt. Nebo On The Hill, 1940, worsted wool embroidery by Grandma Moses
As you can see, her textile pieces are executed with great skill and a wonderful eye for design.  I can't get over the fact that America's most beloved artist was discovered due to arthritis!  I can only imagine she must have been disappointed to be forced to give up her needlework.  But God had other plans!!

The Shepherd Comes Home from the Hills, 1939, worsted wool embroidery, Grandma Moses
She was able to greatly increase her artistic output with this newfound medium, and was able to create more detailed and illustrative paintings with it.  As we stitchers know, this kind of large, detailed work would take a very long time to create.  She could whip up a painting in an afternoon!  And as a result, we have many more of her works to enjoy.  The Lord works in mysterious ways!

Catching the Turkey, 1940, by Grandma Moses
I think my favorite pieces are those depicting winter scenes like this one.  I love how she fills her paintings with activity.  She paints such a joyful scene filled with all the fun activities of wintertime in New England.


Looking at these idyllic scenes of wintertime fills me with joy.  I imagine myself cozied up in that horse-drawn sleigh with my children or sitting by a warm fire in that little cabin.  And I imagine the artist herself walking in the snow, gazing at her home and the surrounding landscape with great love and affection.  This woman knew how lucky she was.  She knew how to appreciate the beauty of her life and her home, and she painted it with honesty and warmth.

The Old Checkered House in Winter, 1950, Grandma Moses
Don't you just love that checkerboard painted house?  It was a favorite of hers too, and she painted it many times, but I think this wintertime depiction is my favorite version.  This old house was an inn and a favorite gathering place for the community in which she lived.  I'm sure it was a hub of activity all the year round with visitors coming to town and staying there.  There was probably a little pub inside.  I imagine a great fire burning in the hearth and the noise of rattling dishes and laughter.  Warm greetings and hugs and handshakes all around.  A lovely place.  I can see why she would have loved it and wanted to paint it so many times.

In Harvest Time, 1945, Grandma Moses
The author of the book, William C. Ketchum writes, "As a farm wife, Grandma Moses was much in tune with the seasons, and some of her most successful paintings evoke the subtle changes in color which mark the passing of the year."  I couldn't agree more.  Her depictions of rural farm life and how it changed with the passing of the seasons delight my eyes and my soul.  I grew up on my grandparents' farm, and Grandma Moses' paintings make me feel so nostalgic for that precious time and the stories they used to tell.  She has painted my memories.

Halloween, 1955, Grandma Moses
This delightful painting, Halloween, graces the cover of the book, and is quite possibly my favorite painting of hers.  I love all the activity - everywhere something going on, and it all looks like such fun!  I love her use of color.  Her paintings are just vibrant and joyful and fun!

Halloween, detail
"America's best known and most beloved folk artist, Grandma Moses, is admired for her charmingly naive style and her ability to bring to life the rural scenes and activities of a simpler, now vanished period of American life." - William C. Ketchum

The more I learn about Grandma Moses, and the more I study her work, the more I love her and the more inspired I become by her.  She was a true folk artist - no formal training of any kind - and yet she was able to create paintings that fill the viewer with happiness and warmth and nostalgia.  I am so thrilled to have found this book.  I only paid 50 cents for it, but I would have paid much more!  Luckily, it is still widely available.  You can easily find one, if you're interested.  Just type in a search query for the title and several options will pop up at all different price points.  Believe me, if you like folk art, and particularly if you like the work of Grandma Moses, you will love this book.

I hope you enjoyed taking a peek at it with me today, and if you know of any more books on this style of folk art that you could recommend, please let me know!

Until next time, take care and have a great weekend!!!

6 comments:

Mary Ann said...

Many years ago I saw a TV documentary about her with interviews with her while she painted. I've always loved her work for it's honesty and simplicity:)

Valerianna said...

Great book!! And, I didn't know that about her either, the needlework is amazing! I never before saw the connection between Pieter Bruegel's work and hers. But today, as I look at these, I see it clear as day... the scenes of people doing their seasonal work. I've always loved both, but didn't see them as related. Thanks for this.

margaret said...

looks like another book you are getting me to search for Starr, I told myself no more books but....

Jules Woolford said...

This is wonderful.It was seeing her paintings which first kindled my interest in Folk art and naive paintings back in the 1980s. I'm fascinated that she was an embroiderer first. I just found the book is available on Amazon UK for the equivalent of about $7! :)

Penny said...

What a wonderful post! I never knew that she began with stitchery (and lovely they were). I can only imagine how sad she must have been to put down her needle and thread - but she had the acceptance to move on to painting. Thanks so much for passing this along.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Starr -- thanks for the "heads up" on this grandma moses book. I ordered it second hand for my daughter that collects folks art. KY has a women that paints similar to Grandma Moses and my daughter has a few painting by this KY artist. Your checkerboard house in your post carries an appraisal of 60,000! Enjoyed this post. -- barbara