Mose Tolliver, a folk artist whose self-portraits and vivid images of nature and the female form done in house paint on plywood made him a leader of the modern-day "outsider art" movement, has died. He was 82.
The self-taught artist, who signed his work Mose T, died of pneumonia Monday at Baptist Medical Center East after years of declining health, family members said
"Mose Tolliver's lyrical visions of birds, flowers and women are sometimes nightmarish," a Washington Post critic wrote in 1982, when Tolliver's work was included in "Black Folk Art in America: 1930-1980" at the Smithsonian's Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.
Tolliver began painting in the 1960s after being severely injured while working in a furniture factory.
He was said to have first gained notice when he hung his paintings on trees in his frontyard and sold them for a few dollars to passersby.
Anton Haardt, author of "Mose T from A to Z: The Folk Art of Mose Tolliver," was an early admirer and began buying his work and reselling it, getting it noticed by dealers.
"Mose and I became very close friends," she told the New Orleans publication Gambit Weekly.
"I'd give all the money from the sales to Mose, and he would give me two paintings in return," she said.
His works were among those that helped create wide interest in the Corcoran's show.
"That was a landmark exhibition that opened the eyes of so many people, the catalyst to helping them discover that this was an art form that needed to be taken seriously," said Marcia Weber, a Montgomery art gallery owner.
Mose T's paintings can fetch thousands of dollars today and are in museum collections, including the Museum of American Folk Art in New York, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Smithsonian Institution and the New Orleans Museum of Art.
But collectors say that it can be hard to find an original since his relatives adopted a similar painting style and signed "Mose T" to their art as his fame grew.
The youngest of 12 children, Tolliver was born July 4, 1924, in Pike Road, Ala. He reportedly left school in the third grade to work in the fields. He later worked as a gardener and housepainter.
Funeral arrangements are pending.