7. Grandma Moses

Born in New York in 1860, Anna Mary Robertson Moses moved away from home at a young age to work at a neighboring farm. She lived the life of a farm wife and mother, primarily spending her time creating needlework and quilts depicting colorful scenes of farm life in New York. At the age of 78, the artist developed arthritis, which prevented her from continuing her embroidery. Because of this, Moses switched to painting scenes instead, marking the beginning of the self-taught artist’s career. Commenting on the late start to Moses’ career as an artist, a reviewer at New York’s Herald Tribune dubbed her “Grandma Moses,” and the nickname stuck.

Within a contemporary art world of avant-garde abstraction, Grandma Moses offered a contrasting point of view with her idyllic landscapes and naïve painting style. She gravitated toward serene scenes from everyday life on the farm and in the country and omitted signs of modern life, like telephone poles or tractors. This approach allowed her paintings to transcend time and gave them a sense of tranquility. Being a self-taught artist, Moses did not conform to the standards of perspective and proportion, giving her works a sort of childlike playfulness.

In Out on the Lake, the artist moves away from farm scenes but retains the key characteristics of her recognizable works, which bring a sense of peace and comfort. A child rows a boat on a quiet river, cows graze in the nearby grass, and mountains emerge from the hazy background. The artist once stated of her works, “I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the tree, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene.”

In contrast to Grandma Moses’ simple, folk art painting, Mary Josephine Walters’ Hudson River Scene exhibits a detailed, idealized depiction of the Hudson River to convey the beauty and enormity of nature. Working in New York like Moses, Walters was one of the few female artists of the Hudson River School, who took inspiration from the grand American landscape.