Anna Mary Robertson was a very unlikely artist to have been plucked from obscurity to nearly overnight fame at the age of 78. She was catapulted from a "primitive outsider artist" to a mainstream figure in the story of American Art in the twentieth century. She had a devoted following including honors from three Presidents and gracing the cover of Time Magazine when she was 93 years of age. Her paintings never alluded to the hardships of her life, instead she preferred to reflect a world in harmony. They were edited to eliminate any signs of industrialization or modern machines. She often drew from her memory creating idealistic and captivating scenes of rural life. She seemed to take great solace in her “daydreams” as she put it. They celebrate American history, nature and community, which resonated with people.
Anna Mary spent most of her life near Bennington Vermont, growing up of one of ten children on her parents' farm. She first dabbled with painting as a little girl, but her career as a professional artist didn’t begin until much later. As a child, she had loved to paint and draw but had few materials. She often painted on cardboard and used berries for paints. Though her father was encouraging, she recalled, her mother thought she should spend time doing household chores and develop skills like candle making, soap making, and dressmaking. She had little education because she did not have enough warm clothing for the winter and she was needed to help with the family. She could only attend school in the summer. By age 12 she was placed in the home of a wealthy family to work as a "hired girl". Her only exposure to art were the Currier and Ives prints in their home, which along with her natural intuition for nature and color, provided a foundation for her work. Most of her young life was spent as a domestic until the age of 27 when she married fellow farm worker, Thomas Moses and bought their own farm and started a family. They had 10 children but only five survived infancy. Anna Mary's life was spent making quilts, crafts, embroidery and making jams to sell, to help support her family. It wasn't until she was in her seventies that she was finally persuaded to send some of her pictures to a country fair, along with canned fruits and jam. Her preserves won prizes but her paintings attracted little attention.
Not long after, however, a drugstore in the nearby town of Hoosick Falls, N.Y. put some of her pictures in the window and they were spotted by a Manhattan collector named Louis Caldor who was on holiday in the area. He bought them all and the following year, he arranged for some of her paintings to be shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in an exhibition of unknown artists. An art critic that reviewed her work dubbed her "Grandma Moses" and the name stuck. She went on to have a one-person show and her work had been in more than 160 exhibitions by the early 1950s. She had the only ‘Ecole Americaine’ picture hanging in Paris’ Museum of Modern Art. Before she retired at age 100, she had created over 1500 paintings.
Her work can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art in NY and Bennington Museum which holds the largest public collection in the world .
Most of the children were in class for one day this week so we kept it simple. They could create from a personal experience and tell their own story , or be inspired by Grandma Moses and celebrate a winter scene.