Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation
September 8, 2007 – January 6, 2008
Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses' (1860-1961) attainment of that peculiar, yet vaunted status of cultural icon is extraordinary in American art. Raised on an upstate New York farm, she was a traditional daughter, wife, mother, homemaker and grandmother who at age 76 tried painting after arthritis made needlework painful. Her passion for painting came late in life, but she dedicated herself to it, creating more than 1,500 paintings before her death at age 101.
Distinguished by idyllic rural subjects, Moses' style is immediately recognized; her charming themes illustrate the American ideal of prosperity and happiness rooted in an agrarian society. Yet, she might have remained only a locally known folk artist but for the discovery of her work by a vacationing New York gallery owner in 1938. Suddenly, with her first New York exhibitions, Moses was a household name. She became a media-darling, adored by millions of Americans.
Featuring the work of America's most celebrated folk artist, this exhibition is an innovative and much overdue retrospective, highlighting unique perspectives on Grandma Moses by placing her art in the context of transition between the Great Depression and World War II, as well as the prosperity and domesticity of the 1950s. For the first time, her signature works are placed alongside those rarely seen, supplemented by an additional selection of the artist's personal artifacts.
This exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Council for the Humanities. Grandma Moses: Grandmother to the Nation was curated by Lee Kogan, Curator of Special Exhibitions and Public Programs at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, and Karal Ann Marling, Professor of History at the University of Minnesota. We also acknowledge the ongoing scholarship of Jane Kallir, Director of the Galerie St. Etienne in New York.