Calendar | Graduations

"The little-known secrets behind the men & women who shaped America"

New York artist makes her debut at age 76

By Paul Niemann

Send a link to a friend

[July 16, 2009]  Does the name Anna Mary Robertson sound familiar to you?  

She was one of America's most popular artists of the 20th century. What makes her story impressive is that while most successful artists have had some kind of formal training, Anna did it by teaching herself how to paint. The one-room schoolhouse she attended as a child does not count as formal training for her career as an artist.  

No, what really makes her story impressive is the fact that she began painting when she was 76 years old!  

Born on a farm near the rural town of Greenwich in upstate New York in 1860, she spent most of her life on farms. Most of her paintings were scenes of rural life, and some of her paintings were so popular that they were used on Hallmark's Christmas cards.  

Anna Mary was one of 10 children born to Russell and Margaret Robertson. She and husband Tom had 10 children of their own, but five of them died in infancy. There were 11 grandchildren who called Anna Mary "Grandma."  

Part of the reason for her popularity was the optimistic, feel-good approach of her paintings. She was so popular that President Harry S. Truman invited her to the White House in 1949.  

She didn't start out as a painter, though. She began creating embroidered pictures in 1927 and turned to painting when she encountered arthritis. She drew her paintings based on her memories of the farms where she had lived.  

[to top of second column]

In 1938 an art collector named Louis Caldor discovered her work displayed at a drugstore in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. He bought every one of her paintings, which were priced between $3 and $5 each, and drove to her home to buy 10 more paintings. He then showed them to a New York City art dealer. A year later, three of her paintings were on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  

Anna Mary Robertson was a spry little woman who painted nearly every day until her death at the age of 101. She created more than 1,000 paintings after she began at the age of 76, including 25 paintings that she created after she turned 100.  

Have you figured out who Anna Mary Robertson was?  

If her name doesn't sound familiar to you, it's probably because Robertson was her maiden name. When she married Thomas Moses at age 27, she took his last name -- and went on to become known as "Grandma Moses."

But you knew that all along, didn't you?  

Grandma Moses lived through the Civil War and both world wars. To celebrate her 100th birthday, Life magazine photographed her for its cover and the governor of her home state of New York proclaimed her birthday as "Grandma Moses Day."


Paul Niemann's column has appeared in more than 80 newspapers and counting. He is the author of the "Invention Mysteries" series of books and can be reached at

Copyright Paul Niemann 2009

(Other columns)


< Recent articles

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor