Anna Mary Robertson Moses was one of the most celebrated and successful members of the modern art movement in the mid-20th century. Throughout the 1950s, exhibitions of her work sold out around the world, and paintings of hers have sold for more than $1 million. The thing is, she didn't even start painting until she was in her 70s, and only then because she couldn't continue with her first choice of artistic expression -- knitting, which is about as far from modern art as you can get.
We saw one modern art installation use knitting needles. We'd rather not elaborate.
Grandma Moses was born in 1860, which you history buffs might recognize as being a year before the start of the Civil goddamned War. She spent most of her life on a farm in northern New York, baking, doing rustic chores, and working on her knitting and embroidery. She was essentially living in a Cracker Barrel fantasy camp.
That is, until she was diagnosed with neuritis, which is a nerve disorder that can cause pain and paralysis in affected areas of the body. In Moses' case, it was in her hands and fingers, which made it impossible for her to even wield her knitting needles, much less stitch full embroideries. At the suggestion of one of her friends, she took up painting, because it was much easier on her afflicted hands. No big deal -- she'd give out her pictures as gifts to her friends, or sell them for a couple of bucks (and we're not being reductive -- she literally sold them for $2 to $3 apiece). And she continued on like that, slinging her future masterpieces around town in relative obscurity, until 1938, when an art collector named Louis J. Caldor got lost on a drive through upstate New York and happened to see her paintings on display in a drugstore window.
"Wow, this place must really dilute their Xanax."
After releasing an explosive cloud of blubbering "eurekas" and "by joves" that nearly sent him careening off into a ditch (probably), Caldor bought every single Grandma Moses painting at the store, then drove to her home to throw even more money at her in a more personal setting. Some of the paintings were displayed in an exhibition in New York City the following year, and Grandma Moses' popularity as a mainstream modern artist took off (please keep in mind she was 80 fucking years old at this time). She managed to stay in the spotlight for 20 more years until her death in 1961 at age 101.
Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. When he isn't trying to figure out if penguins have knees, he can be found on Facebook, and be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line.
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