Face it. Everyone loves Grandma. Especially when it’s Grandma Moses. Today we learned about this true American treasure and took a closer look at her long and wonderful life (all 101 years of it!). Born Anna Mary Robertson in 1860, Grandma Moses came from very humble beginnings as a young girl with 9 siblings. Schooled only until the age of 12, Moses then went on to become a “hired girl” for a number of households in her area, sewing, cleaning, doing whatever needed done for the families.
When Moses married Mr Thomas Moses and ultimately moved to a farm in upstate New York, she filled her days with farm duties and beautiful needlework and sewing. Her first real piece of artwork came about completely by accident. She was busy wallpapering the parlor in their home when she ran out of wallpaper. Substituting the wallpaper for pain white paper, Moses sketched the rest of the design herself. This wallpaper is now hanging in a museum in Vermont!
Moses’ painting didn’t really begin in earnest until the age of 76, when arthritis robbed her of her ability to needlepoint and embroider. Always one to make lemonade out of lemons, she turned her self-taught passion into a career as a much-beloved American folk artist. She was always truly inspired by the world around her, and painted scenes from her own life and the people and places she loved. Unlike other artists we have discussed with the children, Grandma Moses’ artwork is always joyous, happy, capturing special and ebullient moments in life.
One of my favorite stories about Grandma Moses is about a red dress. When she was a child, her one wish was for a store-bought red dress. Coming from a modest family with 10 children, store-bought clothes were not the nor. However, one year, her father promised that he would go out on Thanksgiving Day and buy her a red dress. Unfortunately for her, the stores were all closed on that particular day. Her father, undeterred, went out the next day and bought a dress for his daughter. And while, the sentiment and generosity was certainly there, the dress was not exactly the right shade of red, more of a rust color. And although little Anna Mary never complained, her dream of the perfect red dress was not yet fulfilled. As the years went on, and Grandma Moses became more of a public figure, this story circulated throughout her fans. And, as tokens of their appreciation for her artwork, hundreds of her fans sent her red dresses in honor of her life and achievements. I love that story!
Here are a few more fun facts about Grandma Moses:
- She lived to be 101 years old! She lived through the Civil War, the first automobile, and the first airplane!
- Grandma Moses created close to 1,600 works in total!
- She always painted from the top down – starting with the sky and working her way down.
- My favorite quote from this humble artist is: “Well, people tell me they’re proud to be seen with me on the street…but I just say, well, why weren’t you proud to be seen with me before? If people want to make a fuss over me I just let ’em, but I was the same person before as I am now.”
Today we looked at a variety of her best known works and listened to stories she told about her life and the adventures she had. With her attention to detail and her love of paper dolls as inspiration, each child was given the opportunity to create their paper dolls and add them to a landscape portrait of their choosing. We wanted to see as much detail as possible in the children’s pieces, and have each child tell the story of their piece. I love what they came up with!
Here are a few fun things you can do at home!
- One of the most beautiful children’s books about Grandma Moses is called The Year with Grandma Moses by W. Nikola-Lisa. Look for it in your local library or bookstore!
- There is a lovely film about Grandma Moses made in 1950, excerpts of which we watched today. Here’s the link: http://vimeo.com/26629048