Oil on board
10 x 14 inches (25.4 x 35.5 cm)
Galerie St Etienne, New York
James Vigeveno Galleries, Los Angeles
Artist’s record book, no. 1046, p. 36 (dated May 30, 1945).
Otto Kallir, Grandma Moses, New York, 1973, no. 527, p. 297, illustrated.
Anna Mary Robertson Moses became known to the world as Grandma Moses, one of America’s most noted folk artists. Most of her life was spent in eastern New York, where she was the child of a Scottish farm family. At the age of twelve, she became a hired girl, learning household tasks until her marriage to Thomas Salmon Moses in 1887. She became a conventional farmwife, living with her husband on a large farm in Shenandoah Valley near Staunton and bearing 10 children, of which only five survived. Later she and her husband returned to New York State to a dairy farm in the small village of Bridge, where she spent the remainder of her life. Occasionally she did paintings for house gifts, but never took it seriously. However, her husband always praised her work, and at his death, when she was in her 70s, she was too weak for hard labor, so she filled her stitchery landscape pictures. Her children thought her work was so appealing they encouraged her to transfer her talent for color and design to painting. Her first work was on canvas from a threshing machine cover. Her daughter-in-law took her pictures to the women’s exchange at the local drugstore in Hoosick Falls, New York. Louis J. Caldor, a private collector from out of town, saw the paintings and was highly impressed. He bought the first group of paintings, and when he visited Grandma Moses he bought more. When invited to stay for tea, Caldor amazed his hostess and her relatives when he assured them that he was going to make the artist famous.
The following year, in 1939, he was able to get three of her works included in a Museum of Modern Art show of self-taught artists and to find a dealer, Otto Kallir, who would champion the elderly painter and launch a quarter-century career that would make her an internationally known celebrity. In 1940, her one-woman show, “The Farm Woman Painted,” at the Galerie St. Etienne in New York City led to international acclaim. Her paintings of rural American landscapes and country ways were embraced by a rapidly changing and technological world. The combination of the farmwife’s homespun personality, her life, her charming, naïve evocations of rural life, and a rising interest in folk art catapulted the woman who became known as Grandma Moses to acclaim and fame. Five years later, her fame skyrocketed when Hallmark purchased the right to reproduce her paintings on Christmas cards, selling 6 million copies the first year. The same year, the first book on Grandma Moses made the New York Times bestseller list.
Grandma Moses painted “old-timey things,” as she put it, recollections of a happy life as a child, and as a wife on a farm in upstate New York. With a special gift for conjuring atmospheric landscapes and changing seasons, she filled her paintings with communal scenes of families and farmhands, adults and children all happily working together on the endless cycle of farm tasks, making maple syrup or catching the Thanksgiving turkey. Moses’ paintings are time capsules, colorful narrative landscapes brimming with anecdotal vignettes about the joys of a way of life now lost.
In our wonderful painting, July Harvest Time, Grandma Moses has depicted an idyllic landscape scene. This piece probably shows us much of what she saw and experienced from the farms in rural upstate New York. It is a charming evocation of people busy at work in the fields during the month of harvest. The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the field stretching out in the foreground, where several people are busy making bundles of the yellow hay. In the background of the first field, one finds a man with his horse-drawn hay wagon gathering together the hay bundles. Further in the distance there is a small village, consisting of a few scattered houses and the local church. It is surrounded by green meadows that stretch into the horizon where the thick, dark green forest begins. The dark green color of the forest is duplicated in the tall tree that is standing in the painting’s foreground. The tree breaks the horizontal layers of the fields, and at the same time creates a contrast to the cream and yellow colors of the grounds.