Painting like Moses, when churning butter gets boring.

I don’t know what caused her to begin, but she began. It should be a lesson to us all. Her name was Anna Mary Robertson. She was a painter, here in the United States, but everyone knew her as Grandma Moses.

But back to that day. Specifically that hour, or even that minute. Here was Anna, sitting at the kitchen table, or maybe picking up some groceries at the General Store. She, then 76 years old, somehow said, “I’m going to start painting.” And she did. And the world was swept away by her ability.

She had lived a long life by then. A farmer’s life mostly. She was born in Greenwich, NY. She was the daughter of a farming husband and wife — the Robertsons. Anna was the third born of ten children in that good family. Her’s was a typical childhood, growing up in the New York and Vermont area during the middle 1800s. But she didn’t paint. Sometimes, though, her Dad would bring home paper. White paper that cost 1¢ each. He would have the kids sit and draw pictures, which I am sure, encouraged her artistic yearning.

When she was about 27 years old, she was working on a farm, again. She met one of the “hired men” named Thomas Salmon Moses. They got hitched and moved to the Staunton, Virginia area. They farmed. Still a farmer, she was. To supplement the family income, Anna made potato chips and churned butter. She saved money to buy a cow. Which gave the milk, which made for the butter. And I’ll tell you right now, if you don’t have any mayo, putting butter on potato chips can be a real adventure.

Any way. Anna Mary and Thomas Salmon had ten kids together, but only five lived past infancy. That must have been terribly hard on them. Mostly I’ve read they had a good life together. When Thomas Salmon Moses was about 67 years of age, in 1927, he died of a heart attack. She never married again. She ended up retiring from farm work and moved to a daughter’s home in 1936. Everybody called her either “Mother Moses” or “Grandma Moses” in those days. And that was when she finally started painting.

I just wonder how, where, and why, she came to that decision. I saw an exhibition of hers, a long time ago, when we were in Chicago, I think. I can remember not being fond of her work to begin with, but when I spent more time with them, I grew to really like those paintings.

She was discovered in 1938. An art guy from New York saw her paintings in the window of a drug store near where she lived. He bought them up for $3 each and it wasn’t long before they appeared in an exhibition at the NY Museum of Modern Art, called “Contemporary Unknown American Painters.” She got her first solo exhibition in 1940. She became incredibly popular and appeared on both the covers of TIME and LIFE magazine. And, her paintings were frequently used on greeting cards. Or so I am told.

She painted a lot. In fact, she cranked out more than 1800 paintings in her late life adventure. Grandma Moses died at age 101 on December 13, 1961, at the Health Center in Hoosick Falls, New York. I am guessing she was living there, as a resident. Or maybe it was some kind of a gym, and she had just happened by for a work out. Either way, that is where she passed.

But the most remarkable thing is her decision to follow her heart. Clearly, she loved art. And even though she was 78 years old, she decided it was the best time to start doing it. She followed her passion, her love of life, and it took her to places she probably never imagined.

Today, we should all do something we love.
And see where it takes us.


“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman


Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.”
― R. Bennett, The Light in the Heart


“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn”
― Orson Welles