Maud Lewis’ folk art conveys a sense of joy that keeps collectors hooked



Decades before anyone heard of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, there was Maud Lewis.

The folk paintings of mid-20th century Nova Scotians and today’s trendy digital assets have one big thing in common: it’s hard to explain why either is worth thousands of dollars. .

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Maud Lewis Retrospective

● Mayberry Fine Art, Unit 138-2025 Corydon Ave. (Tuxedo Park Mall)

● Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

● Until June 18

“Her paintings usually cost $4, $6 in the mid-1960s and when she died in 1970 she raised her price to $10,” says Bill Mayberry of Winnipeg, who bought and sold dozens of paintings by Lewis during his 50 years as an art dealer. “This partially disabled little lady, whom most of us would see in poverty, ill health and pain, left us with this incredible legacy of art that Canadians, no matter where they come from, find joy in. to be its guardian for a period of time.”

A retrospective of Lewis’s work, on display at the Mayberry Fine Art Gallery in the Tuxedo Park Mall, offers some clues to the appeal of Lewis’s paintings.


PHOTO BY BOB BROOKS

Maud Lewis sold her paintings, often made with scrap materials, to tourists in Nova Scotia.” width=”600″ height=”442″ srcset=”https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/400 *400/NEP459160_web_maud-nu.jpg 400w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/600*600/NEP459160_web_maud-nu.jpg 600w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/700*700/NEP459160_web_maud -nu.jpg 700w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/800*800/NEP459160_web_maud-nu.jpg 800w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/900*900/NEP459160_web_maud-nu.jpg 900w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/1000*1000/NEP459160_web_maud-nu.jpg 1000w”/>

PHOTO BY BOB BROOKS

Maud Lewis sold her paintings, often made with scrap materials, to tourists in Nova Scotia.

However, it was his humble life and unlikely mystique after his death from pneumonia in 1970 that created a fascination among his fans and collectors.

Lewis lived in Nova Scotia for all of his 67 years, almost all of them in poverty. For many of these years his paintings were his only income.

She was born with birth defects and would later develop rheumatoid arthritis. His seemingly simple style is a product of his adaptation to the stiffness of his joints; in her later years, she had to use the arm she was not painting with to stabilize the other.

“As his arthritis really set in, his ability to move his painting arm was very limited,” says Shaun Mayberry, director of Mayberry Fine Art Gallery, the family business.




<p>Maud Lewis, Deer at Sunset, 1957.</p>
<p>“width=”2048″ height=”1779” srcset=”https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/400*400/NEP459160_web_AW25639resize.jpg 400w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/600*600 /NEP459160_web_AW25639resize.jpg 600w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/700*700/NEP459160_web_AW25639resize.jpg 700w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/800*800/NEP459160_web_AW25639resize.jpg 800w,https: //media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/900*900/NEP459160_web_AW25639resize.jpg 900w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/1000*1000/NEP459160_web_AW25639resize.jpg 1000w”/>								
<figcaption>
<p>Maud Lewis, Deer at Sunset, 1957.</p>
</figcaption></figure>
<p>She began painting in the mid-1940s, and her husband, Everett, would sell her work as a souvenir to tourists—often as fast as she could paint them—for three or four dollars.  This meager income would help them survive in their small cabin near Digby, Nova Scotia.			</p>
<p>She painted with and on whatever scrap metal her husband could find, mostly scrap ship paint on sheets of chipboard that Everett could scrounge from the area.			</p>
<p>The works were sold unframed;  many of the paintings in the exhibit have frames that the Mayberry family made specifically for Lewis’ works.			</p>
<p>The Lewis’s cabin became a favorite stop for travelers after she was featured in a CBC documentary in 1965, and her paintings would soon be seen around the world, but especially in North America.			</p>
<p>Two of them even went to the White House after then-President Richard Nixon sent him a few dollars in the mail – the Lewises demanded money from even the leader of the free world.			</p>
<figure class=


<p>White Cat with Flowers, 1963;  cats were a favorite subject for Maud Lewis.</p>
<p>“width=”2048″ height=”1869” srcset=”https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/400*400/NEP459160_web_AW23022resize.jpg 400w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/600*600 /NEP459160_web_AW23022resize.jpg 600w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/700*700/NEP459160_web_AW23022resize.jpg 700w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/800*800/NEP459160_web_AW23022resize.jpg 800w,https: //media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/900*900/NEP459160_web_AW23022resize.jpg 900w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/1000*1000/NEP459160_web_AW23022resize.jpg 1000w”/>								
<figcaption>
<p>White Cat with Flowers, 1963;  cats were a favorite subject for Maud Lewis.</p>
</figcaption></figure>
<p>“If you look at Maud’s work, there is such joy in her work that people have seen them and bought them for themselves. They bought them for wedding gifts, souvenirs that they brought back from Nova Scotia, and that’s how so many of them spread all over the place,” says Bill Mayberry.			</p>
<p>“Maud’s work has always been fun to buy, because you usually buy it from very positive people, and you usually sell it to the same kind of mindset, who buy it for the sake of owning it.”			</p>
<p>Lewis often painted the same scenes over and over again – wintry landscapes with locomotives, horse-drawn sleighs entering covered bridges, or fluffy-looking cats, all slightly different – because that’s what tourists liked and bought.			</p>
<p>Bill Mayberry says the value of his paintings slowly increased over the years as collectors who could not afford renowned Canadian artists such as Emily Carr and Tom Thomson turned to less expensive works by Lewis.			</p>
<figure class=

The Free Press | Newsletter

The people who sold the painting say they got black truck almost 50 years ago in exchange for grilled cheese sandwiches from a British painter, John Kinnear, who bought it directly from Lewis.




<p>MIKE DEAL / FREE WINNIPEG PRESS KITS</p>
<p> Bill Mayberry” width=”688″ height=”900″ srcset=”https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/400*400/181205-Mayberry-0002.jpg 400w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com /images/600*600/181205-Mayberry-0002.jpg 600w,https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/700*700/181205-Mayberry-0002.jpg 700w”/>								
<figcaption>
<p>MIKE DEAL / FREE WINNIPEG PRESS KITS</p>
<p>Bill Mayberry</p>
</figcaption></figure>
<p>So why aren’t more people taking advantage of the Maud Lewis craze?  Mayberry says it’s rare that one is available because their owners have had their paints from Lewis for years.			</p>
<p>The 25 paintings, postcards and letters that are part of the exhibit are on loan from owners in Winnipeg – Mayberry bought and sold them all years ago – and despite the auction results in Ontario, they are not have no interest in selling, he said.			</p>
<p>“That’s what’s probably going to keep the value of Maud’s (paintings) going because people find it very difficult to part with them,” he says.  “Sometimes things are worth more than money, and art is certainly part of that.”			</p>
<p>alan.small@winnipegfreepress.com			</p>
<p>Twitter: @AlanDSmall			</p>
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Alain Petit

Alain Petit
Journalist

Alan Small has been a Free Press reporter for over 22 years in a variety of roles, most recently as a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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