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

Over the River to Grandma's House

Anna Mary Robertson 'Grandma' Moses (1860-1961)
Over the River to Grandma's House
signed 'Moses.' (lower center)--dated '1943./aug 20.' and inscribed with title and '443.' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
oil on canvas
36 x 45 in. (91.4 x 114.3 cm.)
Painted in 1943.
Jack Kapp, New York, circa mid-1940s.
By descent to the present owner.
O. Kallir, ed., Grandma Moses: American Primitive, New York, 1946, pl. 14, illustrated (as Over the River).
O. Kallir, Grandma Moses, New York, 1973, pp. 233, 237, 292, no. 277, pl. 224, illustrated (as Over the River).
Columbus, Ohio, Columbus Museum of Art, Grandma Moses in the 21st Century, May 11-July 28, 2002 (as Over the River).

Lot Essay

Anna Mary Robertson Moses, known as Grandma Moses, remains one of the most recognizable and beloved twentieth century American artists. Moses began painting in earnest in 1927 at the age of sixty-seven on her farm in upstate New York, initially giving her works to family and friends and showing them at fairs along with her jams and preserves. In the spring of 1938, works by Moses were noticed in a drugstore window by collector Louis Caldor, who returned to New York City determined to introduce the painter to the art world. Caldor captured the interest of gallery owner Otto Kallir and 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)

Between 1943 and 1950, Moses painted approximately twenty large scale paintings, including Over the River to Grandma's House, spurred by collector, curator and Santa Barbara Museum of Art director Ala Story. Story sent the painter two large canvases in the summer of 1943 and suggested that she paint two winter scenes, but, “The bedroom in which Grandma worked in the 'old home' was far too small to accommodate a large table or easel; she therefore had to lay the canvases on her bed while painting--a strenuous procedure for a woman in her eighties. She first did a winter landscape, [the present work] Over the River, and then, instead of another snow picture, Checkered House.” (O. Kallir, Grandma Moses, New York, 1973, p. 233) Of these works, Kallir writes, "one cannot but be amazed at the daring and confidence with which this very old woman undertook the task of painting such large pictures. They are freely and harmoniously composed, giving full scope to her imagination, and they rank among her very best." (O. Kallir, Grandma Moses, New York, 1973, p. 233)

Moses herself wrote of the present work, "This was my Grandmothers Kings old Home, and when thankgiven [sic] came we were all expected Home to dinner, there were many young people like our selves, and we would have a grand time in playing, sports of all kinds, as we were of different ages, some old, some young." (as quoted in O. Kallir, ed., Grandma Moses: American Primitive, New York, 1946, pl. 14) While grounded in her firsthand Thanksgiving experience, Moses often consciously drew connections between her subject and nursery rhymes or poems, as evidenced in the present work. Over the River to Grandma's House has its clear roots in the now notorious poem of a similar title, which is derived from the 1844 verse “The New England Boy's Song About Thanksgiving Day” that was written by the abolitionist and women’s rights activist Lydia Maria Child. (K.A. Marling, Designs on the Heart: The Homemade Art of Grandma Moses, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2006, pp. 145-46)

In this pivotal work, Moses solidifies her own uniquely American style on an impressive scale, while embracing one of the country’s most recognizable proses and conveying the excitement that has become part of the nation's most unique holiday ritual.

This work, painted on August 20, 1943, was assigned number 443 by the artist and entered into her record book on page 21.

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

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