Artwork by Maud Lewis,  A Pair of Oxen in Winter

Maud Lewis
A Pair of Oxen in Winter

oil on board
signed lower right
10 x 12 ins ( 25.4 x 30.5 cms )

Sold for $6,900.00
Sale date: November 25th 2015

Provenance:
Acquired directly from the artist (1950s)
By descent to a Private Collection, Ontario
Literature:
Lance Woolaver, “The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis”, The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, 1995, page 57
Woolaver writes: “Maud painted her horses and oxen in decorative harness, even when ostensibly at work. She painted them as if she were actually harnessing them, following the sequence that the teamster would have used... The vivid memories of a harness maker's daughter served her well. She knew the difference between the American neck yoke and the Canadian head yoke, and the brass trim and the ox bells were the final touches to a well turned out team. In painting these details she maintained contact with her childhood, a time of happiness, joy and security. This cheerful nostalgia is an outstanding characteristic of her work.”

According to Alan Deacon, this artwork was likely painted in the 1950s. Deacon also believes that the board may have been trimmed along the upper edge possibly in order to accommodate past framing.

Share this item with your friends

Maud Lewis
(1903 - 1970)

The simplicity of Maud Lewis’ paintings, brushed initially with scrounged paint from local fishermen onto ubiquitous green boards and postcards, continue to evoke feelings of innocence, of child-like exuberance as enduring as the spring times she loved to paint. Her works continue to capture audiences intrigued by everyday scenes as diverse as hard-working oxen and whimsical butterflies.

Maud Dowley Lewis was born March 7, 1903 in South Ohio, a community near Yarmouth. Her father Jack would provide a moderately prosperous living as a respected craftsman, making harnesses and serving as a blacksmith. Agnes, her mother, favoured artistic pursuits including painting, folk carving and music. Born disfigured with sloped shoulders and her chin resting on her chest, Maud led a confined but happy home life after she quit school at 14, perhaps in part to escape the mocking of her peers. “What is life without love or friendship?” she once confided to a friend. Her mother lovingly taught her to play the piano before arthritis crippled her hands. Physical deformity may have been her lot, but even more tragic was the loss of both her parents within two years. Thankfully, an aunt who lived in Digby took her in. There she would later answer a newspaper ad that would determine the course of her life. A man named Everett Lewis wanted a housekeeper for his cottage in Marshalltown. She married him in 1938 at the age of thirty-four and would never travel more than an hour’s drive from her birthplace. “I ain’t much for traveling anyway,” she said later, “as long as I have a brush in front of me, I’m all right.”

Although short in stature with hands gnarled by arthritis as the years passed, she stood tall when she plied her brush over green-backed particle board. Everett Lewis, a stingy, parsimonious but certainly hard-working man, kept house and made meals allowing Maud to spend most of her time delving into her world of wonder and creating fanciful works of art. Maud gathered images from her happy childhood and limited excursions in a Model T with Everett to paint cheerful images on dust pans, scallop shells and even on her house. They would settle into a routine where Everett enjoyed peddling and haggling over the paintings Maud would love to paint. The happiness she painted first attracted neighbours, then tourists and eventually even international attention. It started with a Star Weekly newspaper article and then a 1965 CBC Telescope program featuring her unique works. Her notoriety began to bloom like the cherry trees that garnished several of her paintings. Orders came in so fast that the paint hardly had time to dry--one reason you may notice fingerprints on some edges of her paintings.

Her style became as fanciful as her subjects. She painted a world often without shadows, autumn leaves on winter landscapes, and even three-legged oxen. Was she adding humour in her subtle, shy way? Her gentle nature and magnetic smile might give that away. Awkwardly bent over a painting, she may have been squinting and intense, but her inner joy escaped onto her panels with unrivaled determination and vitality. Small wonder her work garnered the attention of even the Nixon White House. Ever pragmatic, Maud wrote to ask that funds be forwarded before she sent the requested two panels to the President! Today her work unequivocally demands status as “important art” in numerous fine-art collections around the world.

Not formally trained, Maud adopted a style that emerged from inside the heart of a true artist. As such, she could produce images of enduring quality and appeal, images that transformed her maritime surroundings into painted visions. The irresistible charm of her art had triumphed over the arrows of adversity.

- Reproduced with permission from Wayne & Jocelyn Cameron