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Life Story of “Apple Butter Making” Artist, Grandma Moses

Grandma Moses

by Peter Barnes

Grandma Moses was an internationally renowned artist when she passed away at the age of 101. Her journey to prominence had been improbable. The painting “Apple Butter Making” was made in 1947. It was based on a memory of the artist’s childhood in the Shenandoah Valley.


Grandma Moses Apple Butter Making
FamousApple Butter Making” Painting (1944 – 1947) | Wikiart

Early life of Anna Mary Robertson Moses A.K.A. Grandma Moses

One hundred sixty-two years ago today, on September 7, 1860, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, also known as Grandma Moses, was born. Anna Mary Robertson, who was raised in a farming family in New York, went to school for a few years before leaving at the age of 12 to work as a housekeeper and farmhand.

She married Thomas Moses, a farmhand on the farm where she was working, at the age of 27, fifteen years later. Following the nuptials, the couple boarded a train headed south towards North Carolina, where Thomas was waiting for a job on a horse farm.

They Boarded in to Wrong Train, Not life

Anna_Mary_Robertson_Moses_with_two_of_her_children_-_estimate_between_1890_and_1910
Grandma Moses with her two children (left) estimated between 1890 – 1910

However, they unintentionally boarded the incorrect train in Washington, D.C., and the next day found themselves in Staunton, Virginia. When he went out to buy shaving supplies, he came upon a man searching for a tenant to run a nearby farm. Thomas and Anna were taken with the place and gave up their other plans to take the man’s offer. The Shenandoah Valley would be their home for the ensuing 18 years. 

Anna marketed her butter, which was so highly appreciated that it sold for twice what other local butter manufacturers were charging, while raising five children (five more having died in infancy). Within a few years, she was earning 10 times the typical farm pay at the time by selling over 150 pounds of butter each week. The pair was able to earn enough money to purchase their own farm in Augusta County thanks to her expertise at producing butter, Thomas’ produce sales in Staunton, and what she referred to as her “Scottish thrift.”

Anna was happy in Virginia and would have stayed there for the rest of her life, but Thomas missed New York. So, in 1905, the family moved back to New York, where Anna, who is always resourceful, quickly set up a successful business selling potato chips she had made herself.

Grandma Moses Became an Artist

At age 67, Thomas Moses passed away after a heart attack in 1927. Before relocating with her daughter at the age of 76, Anna continued to live on the farm for a while. Anna started embroidering before her arthritis made it too hard for her to continue because she had always worked with her hands.

Her sister offered an idea when she realized she needed to fill some time. Why not learn to paint? Anna found the notion appealing for a variety of reasons, including her lifelong affinity for the arts and the realization that painting a picture to give the mailman for Christmas would be simpler than baking him a cake.

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When Anna created her first artwork, she was 78 years old. She specialized in rustic themes of rural life and sold her paintings locally for $3 to $5. A New York art dealer first noticed some of her works in a Hoosick Falls drugstore window in 1938. After purchasing them all, he started gathering everything he could. Grandma Moses, an artist, became well-known in a short period of time after her exhibitions broke attendance records and her works were purchased by museums all over the world.

Grandma Moses finished her first picture when she was about 80 years old, and by the time of her passing, she had produced over a thousand, all of which were highly regarded. She passed away in December 1961 and was laid to rest in Hoosick Falls, New York’s Maple Grove Cemetery.

John F. Kennedy, the president, paid tribute to her: “Grandma Moses’ passing caused a cherished character in American culture to go.” The directness and vibrancy of her paintings made us see the American setting in a more natural way.

Her life and activities both contributed to the revival of our country’s pioneer legacy and remembrance of its rural and frontier origins. Every American laments her passing.” After she died, her work was shown in a number of large traveling exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad.

As a Legend

The Grandma Moses postage stamp from 1969. Her Fourth of July picture, which the White House owns, is recreated in it.

The Old Checkered House, 1862, a 1942 object, was valued at the Memphis 2004 Antiques Roadshow. It was less typical than her winter scenes. The item, which was originally bought in the 1940s for less than $10, was given an insurance value of $60,000 by the appraiser, Alan Fausel.

With sales of US $1.2 million in November 2006, her 1943 composition Sugaring Off became her best-selling piece.

Fourth of July (1951), a painting by Otto Kallir of the Galerie St. Etienne, was given as a gift to the White House in 1952. The image of the painting can also be found on a 1969 Grandma Moses commemorative stamp that was released by the United States.

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The Beverly Hillbillies’ Daisy “Granny” Moses (Irene Ryan) is named in honor of Grandma Moses, who passed away just before the show’s premiere.

Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell were neighbors who lived on opposite sides of the state line between Vermont and New York. Moses Rockwell lived in Eagle Bridge, New York. After 1938, he and his family also owned a house in Arlington, Vermont, which is close by.

She can be seen on the far left border of the Norman Rockwell painting, Christmas Homecoming, that was featured on the December 25, 1948, front cover of The Saturday Evening Post.

Art Gallery of Grandma Moses >>>



































Source: WHUHTS, Wikipedia | All the information & photo credit goes to respective authorities. DM for removal please.


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