Maud Lewis was born on march 7th, 1903. Growing up in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, she spent her childhood surrounded by her parents -John and Agnes Dowley- and her brother Charles, but didn’t find it easy to make friends with the rest of the children: Maud was born with rheumatoid arthritis, and she would often become a victim of bullying and mocking for being different.
Art was introduced into her life by her mother, who painted Christmas cards for selling, and taught her everything she knew. Later in her life, this would reflect in many of her artworks.
After their parent’s death, her brother sold the house where they had grown up, forcing Maud to leave her hometown and move to Digby County to live with her aunt.
“Paintings for Sale”
During her life in Digby County, Maud met Everett Lewis, a fish peddler. Shortly after, by 1938, they got married. The singular couple lived in a very small house in Marshalltown, which she enjoyed painting every little corner (this reflects just how happy she was there).
It was during this period that Maud accompanied Everett to his rounds, and began selling her painted cards to his customers for -approximately- 25 cents each. This was the foundation for her growing popularity. As her wonderful paintings are categorized in the folk art style, they show beautiful landscapes with bright colours, and are also quite small.
As Maud’s arthritis got worse, her husband took care of the household activities along with his job, so she could keep on her painting.
As her popularity grew, the couple displayed a sign outside the house that read “Paintings for Sale”, and people who passed by would stopped and, welcomed by her warm smile, buy her paintings.
From magazine articles and television documentaries to a letter received from the White House to request a painting, Maud Lewis became a well-known artist with a wide reputation and a beloved member of her community until today.
After her death in 1970 and Everett’s in 1979, their house eventually started to deteriorate. The citizens that appreciated her work and were concerned about losing this landmark started the Maud Lewis Painted House Society, and through many fundraisings , they tried to save it. In 1984, the house was sold to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where it stands today in permanent display.
In 2017 Aisling Walsh took her life to the silver screen with “Maudie”, a biographical movie that counts with the outstanding performances of Sally Hawkins as Maud and Ethan Hawke as Everett.
I personally think that there is so much to learn about Maud. From feminism, optimism and persistence to living through and for art. My thoughts are that she is one of the perfect examples of how art is directly related with happiness, and how big is the power it has to brighten up our lives and those we share it with.