Grandma Moses: An American Legacy

The exhibition, Grandma Moses: American Modern opened to the public on Saturday, June 18th at Shelburne Museum. This incredible show reasserts Moses and her paintings within the context of mid-century American culture and modernist art. It counters Moses’s marginalization as a “folk” artist or a pop culture phenomenon through close analyses of her paintings and techniques and by presenting her works alongside her fellow “folk” and modernist contemporaries. Co-organized by Shelburne Museum and the Bennington Museum.

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Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses’ work is known for depicting the idealization of the post WWII lifestyle of the American people. Her paintings caused viewers to become nostalgic for the rural life and small-town American dream that was created in the 1930s, and institutionalized in the 1950s. Moses began her painting career in her late 70s in the mid-1930s, by 1943 she had become a household name and her art was in in high demand. In her life time, Grandma Moses produced over 2,000 paintings, had more than 150 solo-shows and 100 shared exhibitions. In 1939, she was included in a private exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. The public fell in love with “Grandma” Moses almost immediately.

Anna Mary Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses (1860- 1961), A Tramp on Christmas Day, 1946. Oil on academy board, 15 3/8 x 19 3/8 in. Copyright © 2016 Grandma Moses Properties Co, New York. Collection of Shelburne Museum, Museum purchase. 1961-210.2. Photography by Andy Duback.
Anna Mary Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses (1860- 1961), A Tramp on Christmas Day, 1946. Oil on academy board, 15 3/8 x 19 3/8 in. Copyright © 2016 Grandma Moses Properties Co, New York. Collection of Shelburne Museum, Museum purchase. 1961-210.2. Photography by Andy Duback.

Moses’ work became popular in a time of complexity, politics and contradictions of modern art in America. Her ‘happy pictures’ of New York and Vermont, were bold in the context of a postwar world, and the public clung to her story of the ‘rags-to-riches’ American. The self-taught artist drew from experiences, memories, and imagination within her paintings. Metaphors of the human connection to nature, the earth’s natural rhythms and community are woven throughout her work. Moses noted “I like to paint something that leads me on and on into the unknown, something that I want to see away on beyond.” “Grandma” Moses inspired and influenced many other individuals and artists through her story, creations, and unique modernist and folk art method and style.

Anna Mary Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses (1860- 1961), Bennington, 1945. Oil on pressed wood, 17 3/4 x 26 in. Copyright © 2016 Grandma Moses Properties Co, New York. Bennington Museum. 1986.310.
Anna Mary Robertson (“Grandma”) Moses (1860- 1961), Bennington, 1945. Oil on pressed wood, 17 3/4 x 26 in. Copyright © 2016 Grandma Moses Properties Co, New York. Bennington Museum. 1986.310.