Art: The Old Lady of Eagle Bridge

At Washington's National Gallery, a primitive revisited

Primitives are the kittens of art; they stand for a kind of sweet, prelapsarian innocence that culture, which means complexity, tends to deny. Even so, Grandma Moses' popularity was unusual, and the show of 43 of her paintings at the National Gallery in Washington scarcely invites criticism. She was one of those infrequent artists whom everyone likes, and most people love.

The major primitives of modern art, Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) and Alfred Wallis (1855-1942), never experienced such affection and fame in their own lifetimes—which, admittedly, were shorter...

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