Mose Tolliver

Born in Pike Road Community, Montgomery County, Alabama, one of the most highly regarded American self- taught artists began life as the son of a sharecropper. Mose, in his early 20’s became a gardener and was known for having an artistic flare for landscaping. He was given free rein by some of his clients to arrange bedding plants. While Mose worked with McLendon Furniture Company in the shipping and delivery area in the late 1960’s a crate of marble fell from a fork-lift and crushed Mose’s left ankle and damaged leg tendons and muscles which left him unable to walk without assistance. Several years after the accident, and after a period of drunken depression, Mose was encouraged to try oil painting by Raymond McLendon, one of his former employers.
Mose elected to teach himself, and painting became routine activity for him. It was a rehabilitative experience . At first he painted birds, flowers and tree forms, later adding people and other animals. “I probably would never have painted if I hadn’t gotten hurt. I would still be working with plants and yards.” Mose painted on any surface — furniture, scraps, plywood packing crate sides, Masonite, metal trays, board remnants, old bureaus, table tops, or other abandoned surfaces given to him. Mose uses what he calls “pure paint,” which is house pain — oil base at first, and later water-based latex.
In 1981Mitchell Kahan, former curator at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts mounted a one-man exhibition of Mose’s work. In an essay published in the exhibition brochure, Kahan pointed out the element of humor in Mose’s work, “…the naiveté of the improbable and bizarrely constructed animals is comical in a charming way. The humor… results from the unintentional discrepancy between the painted image and the real-life source…Often the humor is linked to elements of fantasy and eroticism.” In the first article published about Mose in February 1981 in the Montgomery Advertiser, he is quoted as saying, “I’m not interested in Art. I just want to paint my pictures.”

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