Grandma Moses in Japan
In the middle of the last century, Grandma Moses (1860-1961) was one of the most famous and successful artists in America. Her cheerful landscapes gave comfort to a public traumatized by the recent horrors of World War II and just beginning to come to terms with the realities of the Cold War. Although very much a product of the American heartland, Moses was embraced throughout Europe and East Asia, because her values—the wisdom gathered over a long life, and the need to live in harmony with nature—reflect universal truths. The artist joked that she was like a witch, traveling the world on a paintbrush instead of a broom.
Grandma Moses: A Retrospective Exhibition Celebrating the 160th Anniversary of Her Birth, which opened on April 17, 2021 at the Abeno Harukas Museum in Osaka (through June 27, 2021), is the artist’s sixth exhibition in Japan. It will travel to Nagoya City Art Museum (July 10 – September 5, 2021), Shizuoka City Museum of Art (September 14 – November 7, 2021), Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo (November 20, 2021 – February 27, 2022), and Higashihiroshima City Museum of Art (April 1 – May 22, 2022).
Organized in cooperation with the Japanese media group TOEI, the show includes 75 of the artist’s most iconic paintings, borrowed from over a dozen collectors and museums in the United States and Japan, including the Bennington Museum, Vermont; the Harmo Museum, Nagano; the Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey; the Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Sompo Museum of Art, Toyko; and numerous others. The paintings are complemented by an array of memorabilia and personal items, including objects, such as the artist’s famous painting table, that have never before left the U.S.
Tour the Exhibition
I. Anna Mary Robertson Moses
II. Work and Happiness
III. Season as Celebration
IV. Beautiful World
“The Age of 100 Year Life”
Anna Mary Robertson Moses was a real Grandma, who began painting seriously when she was in her seventies and didn’t stop until she was over a hundred. In the 1940s and ’50s, such longevity was less common than today. Moses embodied the adage, “it’s never too late,” and the belief that everyone deserves a second chance.
The legacy of Grandma Moses is more pertinent than ever in the 21st century, when many people live into their eighties and nineties. Moses was not immune to the hardships that come with extreme age—ill health, the deaths of her husband, siblings, friends and most of her own children. Art enabled Grandma Moses not just to remain productive, but to focus on the enduring pleasures of her long life. “I look back on my life like a good day’s work,” she wrote. “It was done and I feel satisfied with it. I was happy and contended. I knew nothing better and made the best of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”
Art in the Age of Covid
Grandma Moses: A Retrospective Exhibition Celebrating the 160th Anniversary of Her Birth was supposed to open in the autumn of 2020, which would in fact have been the 160th anniversary of the artist’s birth. Covid restrictions caused the opening to be postponed to April 17, 2021. And then, on April 24, much of Japan again shut down.
Organizing an exhibition in the midst of a global pandemic isn’t easy. Although no one could travel to Japan with the loans, the shipment was carefully supervised at the airports in New York and Japan. The condition of all the works was checked prior to departure and upon arrival, with reports relayed to the lenders via Zoom and WhatsApp. Installation was likewise monitored remotely. We are extremely grateful to our American lenders and out parters at TOEI for accommodating the unusual circumstances in order to make this special exhibition a reality!
As we gradually emerge from the pandemic, Grandma Moses: A Retrospective Exhibition Celebrating the 160th Anniversary of Her Birth offers a welcome message of endurance and survival.