New Britain Museum of American Art

New Britain, CT

(860) 229-0257


Memory is a Painter: The Art of Grandma Moses


Memory is a Painter: The Art of Grandma Moses opens at the New Britain Museum of American Art on July 8, 1998. Organized from the collection of the Bennington Museum in Vermont, the New Britain venue is sponsored by American Savings Bank. The exhibition includes twenty prime examples of the art of Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses's paintings, including her famous scenes of farm crafts, winter views, and rural seasonal celebrations, and comes to New Britain, Connecticut after traveling from the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi, California and the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Truly a senior artist, Moses only began a serious painting career at the age of 78 and kept at it until the grand old age of 100! This exhibition documents not only her signature folk imagery but engages the onlooker in Moses's extraordinary career, her love of life, and her savvy marketing skills. Visitors will follow a checkerboard design, starting with the outside banner. (One of Moses's favorite images was a Vermont checkerboard house.) Throughout the exhibition, "Grandma Says" chat signs (about life on the farm, candle making, the seasons, old age) will introduce the rich chapters of her life's story:

Birth of an Artist: The Early Years. Moses's first seventy-five years constitute her "early years." A "corner of Grandma's studio," complete with a replication of the view out her window, her kitchen table palette, brushes, and paint are all displayed, plus rarely seen examples of the artist's handiwork, early yarn paintings and dolls.

Observing the Neighborhood: Grandma Moses and Vernacular Landscape Painting. Classic scenes of ice skating, harvesting, hunting, and socializing with the neighbors follow in the tradition of Flemish and Dutch genre painting. Even without formal training, Moses captured the essence of what it meant to be part of the land and a participant in rural activities. One such activity now seeing a revival is quiltmaking, and, within the exhibition, our visitors will see a quilting bee in progress. Children and adults can design their own quilt by placing modular quilting shapes on a large felt board, and a farm play bench will also be part of an interactive corner.

Memories of Country Ways and Marketing and Acclaim: The Grandma Moses Image. Images of happier, simpler times before the Great War, the Depression, and World War II are here: apple butter making, tapping maple trees, milking cows, shoeing horses--yet Moses also knew how to cope with city slickers. A "marketing corner" displays her many awards, products, fabric designs, and a taped interview with Edward R. Murrow.

The Winter of Grandma Moses' Career. Facing failing vision and arthritis in her hands, Moses switched to painting with her left hand but never let up on the number of pictures produced per year, although her work became broader and more painterly in technique. The legend of Grandma Moses is one of senior citizen wizardry, a marvel of crusty ingenuity and independent living. (At the health center where she spent her final days, she once stole her physician's stethoscope, warning him: "You take me back to Eagle Bridge and you'll get back your stethoscope.") Presidents, Hollywood figures, art collectors, reporters, all mourned the death of Grandma Moses in 1961. This traveling exhibition allows us to recreate her life, her joy of painting, and her wonderful vision of the world.

As an adjunct to the Grandma Moses Exhibition, Art by Seniors, works by 29 senior artists (those in their seventies and eighties)will be exhibited from July 8 to September 20, 1998.


New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington Street, New Britain, CT is open to the public Tuesday - Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Docent-guided tours for adults and children are available by appointment during the morning and public hours. Admission for adults is $3; Senior citizens and students, $2; children under 12 and museum members are free. Free admission on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to noon. Handicapped accessible.

Located in a turn-of-the-century house since 1937 and since expanded to nineteen galleries, the New Britain Museum of American Art traces its beginnings to1903 when private citizens began a public art collection for the enjoyment and education of the public.

Early on, the museum leadership embraced the idea that the collection would be focused exclusively on American art so that today, after nearly 95 years of steady growth, the museum collection numbers nearly 5,000 oils, watercolors, drawings, graphics and sculpture, spanning over 250 years of American art. The visitor can experience an entire survey of our nation's art history from John Singleton Copley, Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, Georgia O'Keeffe, the Thomas Hart Benton murals, Arts of Life in America, and Sol LeWitt, to name a few.

The collection is especially rich in American Impressionism. Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Theodore Robinson, Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman, Julian Alden Weir, Willard Metcalf, Frank Benson, Frederick Frieseke, Richard Miller, Arthur Clifton Goodwin, Emest Lawson, Maurice Prendergast, and Guy Wiggins are all well represented.

Also of special interest to visitors is the Sanford B. D. Low Illustration Collection. Begun in 1964 and comprising more than 1,400 works, the Low Illustration Collection is the nation's first museum-based collection covering the history of American illustration from the 19th century to the present.

Images from top to bottom: Fall, 1958; The Shepherd Comes Home, yarn picture; All Out for Sport, 1949


rev. 11/26/10

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1998 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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