N.S. folk artist Maud Lewis surges in popularity 50 years after her death
Nearly 50 years after her death, there's little doubt artist Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis is experiencing a resurgence in popularity.
A movie focusing on her romance with a reclusive fish peddler opened earlier this month, showing in select theatres in Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver. The film has been so well received; it’s now playing in theatres around the Maritimes.
“Atlantic Canadians have embraced ‘Maudie’ as evidenced by the great ticket sales across the Maritimes this past weekend. Cineplex will be adding a couple of dozen more theatres to our circuit across Canada… beginning this Friday,” says Pat Marshall, vice-president of Cineplex.
At one time, Maud’s paintings went for just a few dollars, but online bidding on a piece of her artwork recently topped $125,000 and the bidding will continue for another three weeks.
Paul Lewis - no relation - got to know Maud while making house calls with his father, a well-known doctor in Digby County.
“I remember that she was very shy, but my father…he really liked her,” recalls Lewis.
In the days before Medicare, people paid for those kinds of services how they could. The family wound up amassing quite a collection of Maud originals, most of which are now in the care of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Some depict the doctor himself, driving his fancy, red sports car.
“She was a very shy person, and I think probably as much as Everett (her husband) enjoyed the notoriety, I think she herself was a very conservative, shy person,” says Lewis.
Everett Lewis is credited with purchasing his wife her first real set of brushes. Now the home they shared is a centrepiece in the ‘Maud Lewis Gallery’ in downtown Halifax.
“It's not a surprise that people are getting excited to see the work again,” says Sarah Fillmore, chief curator at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. “I would like to think it's just one of those things. Every couple of years, people are going to remember how wonderful the work is and come back and feel a connection to it.”
While accolades and financial success eluded her in life, those who knew the legendary painter say she probably wouldn't be interested in the current Maud mania.
“She didn't really like a lot of the publicity; I think she just liked to paint,” says Lewis.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Bruce Frisko