February 2015
Homeplace & Community

Grandma’s Visiting

  The oil painting pictured above is one of 31 works by Grandma Moses on exhibit at the Huntsville Museum of Art.

Works by Grandma Moses are currently on display at the Huntsville Museum of Art.

Grandma Moses. Her name is part of your common vocabulary if you grew up in the 1940s and 1950s. To all who know her work, she is a sure reminder that our lives can dramatically change at any moment whether we’re 5 or 75. When her folk art was discovered by a gallery in New York, she was 80 years old. She continued to paint until she died at age 101.

From now through March 1, visitors can see 31 of her works at the Huntsville Museum of Art. The museum, Galerie St. Etienne, that discovered her is co-curator of the exhibition.

Interestingly, one of the many financial sponsors is listed only as "An Anonymous Grandma."

During the Revolutionary War, the “Checkered House” served as a general’s house and field hospital.  

One of the self-taught folk artist’s most recognized oil paintings portrays the harvest of maple syrup in New England. Grandma Moses painted "Sugaring Off" in 1945. She describes this arduous, time-consuming season through the vivid greens of the spouts on the sugar maples, the brilliant white in the snow-laden ground, the large black pot over a wood fire where the sap is boiled to make syrup, and a variety of bright hues in the farm animals and the dress of the adults and children. About 40 gallons of sap are necessary to make one gallon of syrup.

"Haying Time," done in 1959, bears similar bright colors to "Sugaring Off" in the renditions of the farm workers, the houses and barns, and the livestock.

Much like a patchwork quilt, each section of the "The Battle of Bennington" tells the story of this historic fight in Vermont through the advance of soldiers on both sides bearing American or British flags, a campground, soldiers carrying the wounded and cannon scenes. During this key Revolutionary War battle, American colonists fought the British and Hessians, and the colonists won handily despite being much outnumbered. This set the stage for their major victory at Saratoga, N.Y., the turning point of the war.

The 1942 oil that Grandma Moses rendered of her childhood home in Greenwich, N.Y., shows off its slate-colored barns and its small white farmhouse. The painting is signed in large letters across the bottom in the artist’s own hand.

According to HMA officials, "Grandma Moses’ rustic landscapes with sturdy farm buildings, rolling hills and small, simply rendered figures evoke a world that existed primarily in her imagination."

According to www.arthistory.about.com, Anna Mary Robertson was born on a farm in New York in 1860 and began working for hire for another farmer at 12. She wed Thomas Salmon Moses at 27, living the farm life and rearing five children. Following her husband’s death in 1927, she turned to oil painting in the 1930s. The artist had stopped doing embroidery because of arthritis in her hands.

She sold her work at the county fair for a number of years when collector Louis Caldor passed through on a trip and purchased everything she had on display. Her paintings, at his recommendation, were placed on exhibit at a major New York museum, and her rise to fame began. She would go on to be featured on the covers of Lifeand Time magazines, in early TV and in movies, and served as the focus of books and millions of greeting cards.

This month, Jane Kallir, co-director of Galerie St. Etienne, will deliver a gallery talk Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. Kallir is one of the leading authorities on the work of Grandma Moses. March 1 at 1 p.m. a trained museum docent will lead a guided tour of the 31 paintings.

An upcoming exhibit in March at the Huntsville Museum of Art should also interest readers of AFC Cooperative Farming News. John James Audubon’s prints, a collection of his North America quadrupeds, four-legged animals, will be on display starting March 22.

Twenty-five original prints from his 150 hand-colored folio drawings are being loaned by a major private collector, said HMA officials. When he began this collection, Audubon had already drawn international fame with his best-known "Birds of North America."

The Huntsville Museum of Art is in downtown Huntsville at 300 Church St. Through April 26, another special exhibition is open at the Museum, “Rembrandt, Rubens, Gainsborough and the Golden Age of Painting in Europe.” Special admission during this exhibition is $12 for adult, non-members; $10 for military, students (age 12 and up), teachers, and seniors (60+) with a valid ID; $5 for children age 6−11; and $8 per person for groups of 10 or more. Museum members and children 5 and under are admitted FREE.

For more details on all exhibitions and the museum’s 2015 schedule, go to www.hsvmuseum.org.

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer from Huntsville.