I’m looking at a picture and article in my Sunday paper today of a very accomplished eighty-four year old woman who is an artist, among other talents. As I munch on my chocolate chip cookie and enjoy my cinnamon tea, I’m thinking about another very famous artist, Grandma Moses, who died on December 14, 1961. She was 101 years old.
On the day of her death, The New York Times ran a charming, long article about her life. They described her as being “cheerful as a cricket.” Her art was, stated the Times, “Gay color, action and humor enlivened her portrayals of such simple farm activities as maple sugaring, soap-making, candle-making, haying, berrying and making of apple butter.” I’m not sure what “berrying” was beyond the picking, but maybe that is what was meant. Anyway, her art is charming.
Grandma Moses had art training but another artist who worked in the “primitive” genre had no training at all, yet she is almost as famous. Clementine Hunter was born December 1886 in Louisiana, and died at the age of 100. When she began painting, she was living on the Melrose Plantation, bordering on the Cane river. She was a cotton picker when she first moved there but soon began as a cook in the mansion. The African and Creole cultures were strong in the area, and also it attracted many artists and writers such as William Faulkner and John Steinbeck. My husband and I were fortunate to own two of her paintings which cost about $75 each when we purchased them in the 1960’s. They now run in the many thousands. We were forced to sell ours a few years ago. We miss them.
Agnes Martin and Georgia O’Keeffe were friends and both lived in New Mexico a good part of their lives. Martin died in Taos at the age of 92 and O’Keeffe left us at the age of 98 while living in Santa Fe in a home that is about a minute away
from me. Martin was doing realistic art until her 40’s when she switched to abstract. O’Keeffe is probably best known for her lush, lovely renderings of flowers, but she did many other subjects and styles. If you come to Santa Fe, don’t miss a visit to the beautiful O’Keeffe Museum.
Even if you are not interested in art or art history, if you are interested in the history of women, these four women are very important. They lived during a time when women really struggled to overcome being in the place of second fiddle to men. And, these were people who continued to use their talents clear into their
MOSES at the New York Times on Dec. 14, 1961archive
HUNTER showing at the Gilleys Gallery in Louisiana
MARTIN at the Washington Post Dec. 17, 2004 archive
O’KEEFFE at http://www.okeeffemuseum.org
COMING NEXT: The Days Before GPS