Grandma Moses once said, "What a strange thing is memory, and hope; one looks backward, the other forward; one is of today, the other of tomorrow. Memory is history recorded in our brain, memory is a painter, it paints pictures of the past and of the day."
Marion Forgey Line (1919-1999) has often been compared to Grandma Moses, and, like Moses, she is considered to be a memory painter. Indeed, Moses and Line seem to be kindred spirits as they painted luminous pictures of life in the country and family stories. Their vantage point is high above their scenes -- all seeing and all encompassing, as if they are spirits floating in the sky as silent observers. Their titles are eerily similar; each artist depicted subjects titled Springtime, Harvest Time, Shenandoah Valley, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and Apple Pickers. Both lived in Virginia for part of their lives, started painting intently late in life and struggled with arthritis. However, until now we know much about Grandma Moses and little about Marion Line.
Marion Louise Forgey was born in Morristown, Tenn., in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Though her work may suggest a childhood on a farm, her father and grandfathers were businessmen. She received a public school education and music lessons in Morristown. She attended Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tenn., where she earned a B.A. in English (cum laude) with a diploma in violin. There she met Lloyd E. Line Jr., and, after a courtship of six years, they were married in 1941. For 11 years, they moved around the country as he advanced in his career. During those years she taught English and music while continuing to play her violin in symphonies in Philadelphia and Knoxville. In 1952, they settled in Richmond, Va., and raised their family.
Although Marion Line always loved to draw pictures of people, places and animals, it was not until the 1970s that she returned to the visual arts. After arthritis left her unable to play the violin, she felt compelled to express her own sense of beauty, joy and spirituality through painting. Her paintings are awash with bright colors and nostalgic visions of spring flowers, harvests and wintry wonderlands. She said she gathered her "ideas from Bible stories, song titles and family history, people and events." [Judith Snyderman in "Grandma Marion," Richmond's Visual Arts Magazine Gallery, Vol.2, No. 2]
Jonah's Regurgitation (1987) is one such work - inspired by a Bible story but also conveying her sense of humor. In Line's version a large Jonah (nearly half as big as the whale) flies through the air toward the shore. Jonah is accompanied by what appears to be a great deal of whale saliva. A fisherman in a small boat in the foreground looks placidly upon the scene. Other paintings are exuberant reflections on nature, such as Fall Scene: Leaf Rakers (1994). Here, a father and son gather piles of leaves while all around them fall foliage is at its peak. Line could not resist making the scene her own. She painted the treetops with rhythmic, swirling lines that make the tree appear to be on fire.
She often said, "I am not a Pollyanna." Personal accounts lead one to understand that this was an honest self-appraisal. Family and friends described her as an individual, filled with a creative spirit and humor, and someone with a great deal of empathy and tenderness. Her college classmate, Margaret W. Cooper, wrote a letter to Lloyd Line after his wife's death, describing her as a woman "with large, soulful eyes, rich with internal reflection." To her husband, she was a beautiful and comple