Anna Mary Robertson 'Grandma' Moses (1860-1961)
Anna Mary Robertson 'Grandma' Moses (1860-1961)

The Old Checkered House in 1860

Anna Mary Robertson 'Grandma' Moses (1860-1961)
The Old Checkered House in 1860
signed and dated 'Moses. 1860.' (lower left)--dated '1944./June 13.' and inscribed with title and '592' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
oil on masonite
35 ½ x 44 ¾ in. (90.2 x 113.7 cm.)
The artist.
Mrs. Ala Story, New York and Santa Barbara, California, acquired from the above, 1944.
Setay Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, acquired from the above, 1969.
Dr. Carl Rainone, Texas, until 1981.
Gus Edwards, Texas, 1985.
Bruce Edwards, by descent.
O. Kallir, Grandma Moses, American Primitive, Garden City, New York, 1947, pl. 3, illustrated.
Book of the Month Club News, June 1953, cover illustration.
O. Kallir, Grandma Moses, New York, 1973, p. 294, no. 387, illustrated.
San Francisco, California, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Grandma Moses, September 20-October 31, 1948.
Albany, New York, Albany Institute of History and Art, Grandma Moses: Exhibition Arranged on the Occasion of her 90th Birthday, September 7-October 15, 1950.
Cincinnati, Ohio, The Taft Museum, Paintings by Grandma Moses, December 10, 1950-January 15, 1951.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, The Dayton Company, Grandma Moses: Sixty of Her Masterpieces, April 9-28, 1951.
Kansas City, Missouri, and elsewhere, Grandma Moses, May-November 1951.
Toronto, Canada, Art Gallery of Toronto, Grandma Moses, January 11-March 2, 1952.
Syracuse, New York, Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts, Grandma Moses, May-June 1952.
San Francisco, California, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Grandma Moses, August 31-October 13, 1957, no. 23 (as Old Checkered House).
New York, Galerie St. Etienne, Grandma Moses, November 14, 1989-January 13, 1990.

Brought to you by

Elizabeth Beaman
Elizabeth Beaman

Lot Essay

Anna Mary Robertson Moses, known as Grandma Moses, remains one of the most recognized and beloved American painters. She began painting in earnest in 1927 at the age of sixty-seven on her farm in upstate New York. She initially gave her paintings to family and friends and showed them at fairs along with her jams and preserves. Then in the spring of 1938, her works were noticed by collector Louis Caldor in the window of a local drugstore. Caldor returned to New York City determined to introduce Moses to the art world. After two years, Caldor finally captured the interest of gallery owner Otto Kallir. Kallir later remembered, "what struck me...was the way the artist handled the landscape...Though she had never heard of any rules of perspective, Mrs. Moses had achieved an impression of depth [with color]...creating a compelling truth and closeness to nature." (as quoted in K.A. Marling, Designs on the Heart: The Homemade Art of Grandma Moses, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2006, pp. 126-27)

In 1940, at the age of eighty, Moses had her first New York exhibition, What a Farm Wife Painted, at Kallir's Galerie St. Etienne. The show was well received, and her works were seen as a welcome respite to the reductive Modernist art of the day. One critic wrote, "When [Moses] paints something, you know right away what it is—you don't need to cock your head sideways like when you look at some modern dauber's effort and try to deduct [sic] if it is maybe a fricassee or sick oyster, or maybe an abscessed bicuspid, or just a plain hole in the ground." (as quoted in J. Kallir, Grandma Moses in the 21st Century, Alexandria, Virginia, 2001, p. 23) During a time of great patriotism during World War II, Modern art was still seen as a European influence, while Moses’s paintings seemed wholly American.

The Old Checkered House in 1860, painted in June of 1944, is a classic example of Moses’s all-American subject. The checkered house, located in a town not far from her farm, was originally an inn built in the 18th century and as Moses described, “It was the Headquarters of General Baum in the revolution war [sic], and afterwards He used it as a Hospital, then it was a stoping [sic] place for the stage, where they changed Horses every two miles, oh we traveled fast in those days.” (as quoted in O. Kallir, ed., Grandma Moses: American Primitive, 1946, pl. 17)

New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl may have been thinking of The Old Checkered House in 1860 when describing Moses’s paintings, “Her best pictures unfold startlingly expansive landscapes of fields, woods, and hills that slide smoothly into Brueghelesque foregrounds of buildings and teeming figures. She said that she came by her scenic vision in a flash—when the hubcap on a car at her farm caught her eye with a fish-eye reflection of the surrounding, familiar countryside.” (“The Original,” The New Yorker, May 28, 2001)

Moses painted from memory, sometimes aided by photographs and by cutout images. Although the checkered house burned down in 1907, it left a lasting impression on Moses and became a favorite subject among collectors of her works. She painted the distinctive house at least twenty-five times in both summer and winter and in various sizes. The present work is notable as being the second largest of the checkered house paintings. Large format works such as this are rare in Moses’ oeuvre and date mostly to the mid-1940s before the large canvases became too difficult for her to manage.

This work, painted on June 13, 1944, was assigned number 592 by the artist and entered into her record book on page 29.

A color reproduction of the present work was printed and published by Arthur Jaffe Heliochrome, Co., in 1949.

The copyright for this picture is reserved to Grandma Moses Properties, Co., Inc., New York.

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