Unit 7: Art Connection

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Grandma Moses

Anna Mary Robertson was born on September 7, 1860, on a farm in Washington County, New York. She was one of ten children. Anna was typical of farm girls of that era in that she received little education and learned to work very hard on the farm.

In 1887, when Anna was 27 years old, she married Thomas Salmon Moses, and moved with him to Staunton, Virginia. The couple had ten children, five of whom died in infancy. At times, when she was working on their farm or around the house, Anna would look out at a nearby valley and think that she would like to paint it someday. But free time was something that Anna did not have.

In 1905, the family returned to New York and settled down on a dairy farm in a village called Eagle Bridge. Anna took up embroidery, a common craft among women of that time, which involved creating pictures on cloth with a needle and thread. Her husband told her that he liked her artwork, especially her landscapes, and encouraged her to do more.

After Thomas died in 1927, Anna continued to do embroideries. In 1938, at the age of 78, Anna found that her arthritis made it difficult to embroider, so she began to paint. Most of her painting subjects were landscapes, Many were images of life as she had known it in New York and Virginia. In her colorful paintings of houses, roads, hills, valleys, trains, and people, she expressed her love for a simple American farming lifestyle that seemed to be becoming a thing of the past.

Because she did not have any real training as an artist, Anna's painting methods were all her own. She painted landscapes from memory, often beginning with the sky, then the grass, and gradually adding details. Anna wrote in her autobiography: “I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene.”

Anna's children and sister encouraged her to try to sell her art. After her daughter-in-law brought some of Anna's paintings to a local drugstore, they were spotted by Louis Caldor, an art collector. Caldor immediately bought the paintings, then visited Anna Moses to buy some more.

Caldor tried to get an art gallery to show Moses' paintings, but did not have any luck for a few years. Many gallery owners thought that the artwork of an uneducated farmwoman was not worth the effort. Finally, in 1939, three of Moses' paintings were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. In a short time, Anna became a national sensation. A newspaper reporter nicknamed her “Grandma Moses,” and this became the name by which she is most known.

Grandma Moses painted up until her death in 1961, at the age of 101. She had created about sixteen-hundred paintings in her career. Her paintings are often found on greeting cards and on postcards. She is remembered not only for her colorful, cheerful paintings, but also for her willingness to try new things at any age.

Word Wise

A period or length of time: Benjamin Franklin was born during the colonial era of American history.

A picture or painting that shows a view of scenery on land: The artist painted a landscape of the hills around his house.

Painful swelling of joints in the body: Dani takes medicine to control her arthritis.

The theme or object of a piece of art: I think this bowl of fruit will make a nice subject for my drawing.

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Look at the word “subject.” Can you think of any other meanings for this word than the one that is given?

The word subject can be used as a noun, as an adjective, or as a verb. Write the words “noun,” “adjective,” and “verb” on a piece of paper. Use a dictionary to find 3 different meanings of the word subject, and write them next to the appropriate part of speech.

Data Hunt

Imagine that you have been hired to display some artwork by Grandma Moses in an art gallery. You have a total of 15 paintings to display. The paintings have the following measurements:

5 paintings are each 4 feet high by 4 feet wide
5 paintings are each 4 feet high by 3 feet wide
5 embroideries are each 8 inches high by 8 inches wide

The room in which you will display the artwork is a cube-shaped room with four walls, but you may only display artwork on three of the walls. The room has ceilings that are 15 feet high.

Draw a picture of the room, and write down the measurements of each wall (height, width). You need to place the artwork on the wall so that the center of each piece of art is about 5 feet from the floor. There also needs to be at least 6 inches of space between each piece, or between the edge of a painting and the end of the wall.

Can it be done? Why or why not? Work with a partner on this problem.