Lot #2

Maud Lewis
Walking to Church

watercolour on card
signed lower right
4.25 x 6.25 ins ( 10.8 x 15.9 cms )

Bidding has concluded on this item.
Price Realized: $8,260.00
Provenance:
Acquired directly from the artist by a Nova Scotia Private Collection
By descent through the family of the Private Collection
Private Collection, Nova Scotia
Collection of Nancy Silcox, Ontario
Literature:
Lance Woolaver, “The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis”, The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax, 1995
Bernard Riordon, Curator, Director, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, “The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis”, exhibition brochure, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, unpaginated
Sarah Milroy, “Maud Lewis: Paintings for Sale”, Goose Lane Editions/McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, 2019, pages 150-153, 156-157 for additional works on card by the artist
Maud Lewis’ paintings on card represent some of the earliest work by the Nova Scotia folk artist, before eventually switching to larger boards to create her joyous compositions. Lewis biographer Lance Woolaver noted (partially quoting Art Gallery of Nova Scotia director Bernard Riordon), “the artwork of Maud Lewis epitomises the best of [the folk art] tradition by illustrating an art form that has emerged from the heart and soul of Canada, free from the trappings of ‘high art’. It is a spontaneous and tangible extension of the life and experiences of its creator. This is the art of the ordinary person and it reflects a revisiting of values, a reexamination of the essence of life and purity of purpose and vision that provides one of the most exciting avenues of visual expression in the world today.”

Alan Deacon, scholar and authority in the work of Maud Lewis, believes that this artwork was created by Maud Lewis during the 1950s, given the quality, fluidity and confidence in creation by the artist.

Deacon notes that these works on card are rare because most of these ‘greeting cards’ would often have been thrown away after use by the original owners. The earliest works on card by Maud Lewis from the 1940s were often completed in pen and ink with a light wash, however by the 1950s Lewis was able to get blank cards from Edith Wallis, assistant editor and later editor of the Digby Courier and Wallis Print. These cards have a recessed area for drawing and painting. Maud Lewis would have likely sold these cards door to door for five cents each whilst accompanying her husband, Everett Lewis, as he was completing his rounds selling fish.

The ongoing and comprehensive exhibition of Maud Lewis’ work at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg has just had a collection of these works on card added to the show, on display until the exhibition closes January 26th, 2020. The popular exhibition will then travel following the seven-month installation at McMichael.

We extend our thanks to Alan Deacon and Nancy Silcox for their contributions in the cataloguing and presentation of this artwork.

Canadian author and art collector Nancy Silcox is selling this artwork in order to benefit the ongoing environmental catastrophic in Australia, with disasterous fires, the worst drought in the country’s history and record high temperatures taking a tragic toll on wildlife. Nancy wished to do something to support the crisis and is therefore donating the proceeds of sale from this rare work by Maud Lewis to WIRES Australian Wildlife Rescue Organization, the country’s largest such organization, whose mission is to “actively rehabilitate and preserve Australian wildlife and inspire others to do the same.” Cowley Abbott is donating the selling commission collected on the sale to WIRES and interested individuals can donate directly to the organization by visiting www.wires.org.au/donate/online.

A lover of animals and wildlife, which are often central subjects within her vividly-coloured landscapes, the charitable sale of this artwork compliments the interests of Maud Lewis and her supporters.

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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