Nova Scotia Heritage Day 2019: A Celebration of Maud Lewis

On February 3, 2015, a new statutory holiday began in Nova Scotia. This holiday would honour important people, places, and events in our province. For Nova Scotia Heritage Day 2019, the art and life of folk artist, Maud Lewisopens a new window, will be celebrated. On the Heritage Day websiteopens a new window, it's said that Maud “painted scenes that evoke feelings of innocence and childlike exuberance that is as enduring as the spring times she loved to paint." Her work is also being celebrated as an example of the varied and impressive artistic talents that grow in our province.

Life of Maud

According to some records, Maud Dowley was born on the March 7, 1903, in South Ohio, Yarmouth County. However, according to research done by Nova Scotian author, Lance Woolaver, and presented in his book Maud Lewis: The Heart on the Door, It's more likely that she was born in 1901 within the town of Yarmouth. She was the youngest of two children born to John and Agnes Dowley. At a young age, Maud was afflicted with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and was very small in stature. As a child, she would take up painting lessons from her mother, and then use those skills to make and sell Christmas cards to their neighbours.

Her work

In 1938, Maud married fish peddler, Everett Lewis, and then moved to Marshalltown to live with him in his tiny cottage. She proceeded to paint every surface within the cottage with bright and joyful images, inspired by the beauty of rural Nova Scotia; these images would also find their way onto various materials close at hand, including wallpaper and cardboard. Over the years, Maud would sell her art to passing tourists for a few dollars each. In her late 60s, she contracted pneumonia, and passed away on July 30, 1970. Even though she lived a reclusive and sometimes difficult life, Maud was said to possess a pleasant and charming nature. This may be how she was able to portray a world so bright in her paintings, as they continue to capture the hearts of modern audiences.

Legacy

After her death, many forgeries of her work were created—some even by her husband Everett. The value of Lewis’ original paintings has increased over the years. In April of 2018, one of Maud’s paintings went for $18,000 at an auction in Margaretsville, NS (you can read the full story on the Yarmouth County Vanguard's websiteopens a new window). In 2017, one of her paintings was found at a thrift store in Ontario, and went on to sell for $45,000 (full story on the Globe and Mail websiteopens a new window).

Reading List

If you would like to learn more about Maud Lewis' life and art, you can find the following items in our catalogue:

Throughout the month of February, there will be several public programs taking place in different Halifax Public Library branches to celebrate Maud. You can see a listing of these programs here.

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