In Grandma Moses: Painter of Rural America, Zibby Oneal writes an intimate, compelling biography of this popular and acclaimed painter. This brief biography runs only fifty-eight pages as it follows the artist from her birth in 1860, through her childhood, into her marriage and the rearing of her own family, and concludes, at the height of her popularity, with her death in 1961 at the formidable age of 101.
Oneal shapes Moses’ life around seven chapters, each of which highlights a unique aspect of the artist’s personality. Oneal emphasizes the undeniable influences of the childhood home and family atmosphere of Anna Mary Robertson, who would come to be known as Grandma Moses. Growing up as one of ten children, the oldest girl and fourth eldest child, Robertson worked hard on the family farm in upstate New York. Oneal describes life on a farm in the mid-to late 1800’s by vividly describing the daily responsibilities that she would have performed. The author portrays a busy, difficult life for parents and children alike and clearly distinguishes the female’s chores and role; however, she also writes about the play and rambunctious antics that are typical of growing children. To Robertson, Oneal especially attributes a spirited tomboyishness and tenacious imagination. Indeed, she gently conveys the affection between the child and her father, a man who shared her fascination with color, who entertained himself with painting, and who encouraged his children’s artistic endeavors.
Later chapters follow Moses’ journeys from the farm. Oneal only briefly mentions the artist’s...
(The entire section is 653 words.)