The Owlkill


Anna Mary Robertson Moses ( American, 1860 - 1961 )

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General Description

The Owlkill River is a tributary of the Hoosick River in upstate New York, near the farm where Anna Mary Robertson (popularly known as "Grandma") Moses lived and worked. Like all of Moses' paintings, this winter scene is a combination of real locations and buildings from her neighborhood, her memories of childhood, and compositions taken from popular prints by the 19th-century lithographers Currier & Ives.

Although she drew as a child, Moses did not begin making pictures until she was in her 70s, after a long life as a farmer in New York and Virginia. She first worked in fabric, and then moved to paint because it was less difficult for her arthritic hands. Through the promotion of several art dealers trumpeting naïve or folk art as an antidote to abstraction, Moses became an overnight sensation in the 1940s. Until her death at 101, Moses produced more than 1,500 paintings over her twenty-year career.

Excerpt from

William Keyse Rudolph, DMA label copy, 2007.

Fun Facts

  • Beginning in her lifetime, Grandma Moses paintings were commonly reproduced as mass marketed greeting cards, fabrics, and china plates. The DMA has a Grandma Moses plate manufactured by Atlas China in its permanent collection. (2002.1.53)

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