Grandma Moses Painting Donated to Rutgers–Camden by Alumna

 

By Tom McLaughlin

Anna Mary Robertson Moses, known affectionately as Grandma Moses, became a renowned American folk artist for her pastoral landscape paintings often depicting her family farm, which were reproduced and distributed on greeting cards, fabrics, tiles, and wallpapers.

One of the legendary artist’s original, lyrical landscapes, “In Snow Drift,” now graces the walls of the Stedman Gallery in the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, thanks to a donation from Rutgers University–Camden alumna and philanthropist Eleanor “Ellie” Cheney.

“I wanted to do something with the painting so that it would never be forgotten,” says Cheney, a 1966 graduate of Rutgers–Camden, who also donated $45,000 to help establish the Writers House at her alma mater. “I knew that it would be safe and secure at Rutgers–Camden. Rutgers University has been here for more than 250 years and will be here another 250. Hopefully it will be admired and enjoyed for a long time as I have enjoyed it.”

Cyril Reade, director of the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts, thanks Cheney for her generosity, noting how the gift supports the center’s mission to inspire a full appreciation and enjoyment of the arts.

“The Rutgers–Camden collection of art holds increasingly significant works of art, and we are honored to add this to our collection for public display,” says Reade. “Thanks to Ellie Cheney, the gift of this Grandma Moses further solidifies the Rutgers–Camden Center for the Arts’ standing as a premier destination for the arts in South Jersey.”

More than 50 years since graduating, Cheney hasn’t forgotten her Rutgers–Camden roots, crediting her academic experience in the University’s Camden College of Arts and Sciences as the first steps taken toward her prodigious career as an educator.

As she recalls, upon moving to Cherry Hill with her husband, the late Daniel Cheney, a successful magazine publisher, she began working at RCA in Camden. She then pursued a bachelor’s degree at nearby Rutgers–Camden, fulfilling a lifelong promise that she had made to herself to attend college if she ever lived near one.

Cheney grew to admire and respect the late James Sanderson, her English professor at Rutgers–Camden, who asked her one day if she had ever thought about being a teacher. From that day forward, she recalls, the rest was history.

Cheney student taught at Delaware Township High School, in the building which is now Cherry Hill West, and graduated from Rutgers–Camden in 1966. She later received her master’s degree from Rowan University in 1971 and spent much of her career teaching English in the Lenape Regional High School district, first at Lenape High School and then at Shawnee High School.

After serving as a guidance counselor for several years, Cheney retired and headed a family foundation, which focused on supporting social services agencies in Camden and Burlington counties, until closing in 2005. Cheney and her husband also supported a scholarship at Cherry Hill West established in memory of their late son.

Much like Cheney, Moses found her vocational calling later in life. The third of 10 children, the folk artist was encouraged by her father to paint and draw at an early age. She began working on a farm at the age of 12 and continued to do so following her marriage to Thomas Salmon Moses in 1887. In 1905, the couple purchased a farm in Eagle Bridge, N.Y.

Moses, who had painted scenes on various objects in her home, was in her 70s when she first began to make pictures with embroidered yarn. When her hands were too stiff to hold a needle, she began painting in oils. In 1938, collector Louis Caldor saw her work in the window at a drugstore that was part of the local Woman’s Exchange. He brought her works to New York City and they were soon being displayed in museums, galleries, and department store exhibitions.

The Stedman Gallery is located in the Fine Arts Complex on Third Street, between Cooper Street and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on the Rutgers University–Camden campus.

Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, visit rcca.camden.rutgers.edu or contact Nancy Maguire at 856-225-6245.

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