Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Back in the mid/late 1990s (come to think of it, approximately the same timeframe as my pregnancy with Katie & its aftermath), the bank I worked for announced a major cultural sponsorship in the province where it had been founded. I had never heard of Maud Lewis before this, but over the next year or so, I found myself writing several articles for the staff newsmagazine about the sponsorship, which included a long national tour of Lewis's paintings; the restoration of her tiny, simple home -- every spare inch of it decorated with gaily painted flowers, birds and butterflies; and its installation in a new permanent gallery within the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, along with a considerable collection of Lewis paintings. Employees wrote to tell us about their own Lewis paintings and how they'd acquired them -- often purchased directly from Lewis or her husband at their home for $5 or $10 each (! -- they're now worth a whole lot more than that!!)(bidding on a newly discovered Lewis work recently topped $125,000). There was something hugely appealing to me about Lewis's simple, folksy style, which some have compared to the work of Grandma Moses in the United States. Apparently, her work hung in the White House during President Richard Nixon's time there.

When dh & I went to Nova Scotia in September 2010, a stop at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia was high on my to-do list. We weren't disappointed. Even dh was enchanted by Maud's colourful, whimsical portraits of cows & oxen, cats, horses, deer, birds, flowers and butterflies. We sat on a wooden bench and watched an old CBC documentary about her, peeked inside her tiny house (no bigger than some garden sheds), and marvelled that this shy, tiny woman, who suffered from debilitating arthritis her entire life, managed to create paintings that reflected such joy, cheerfulness and delight in the world around her.  If you are ever in Halifax, it is well worth a visit. 

A few months ago, a trailer popped up in my Facebook feed for a new movie about Lewis called "Maudie," starring British actress Sally Hawkins as Maud & Ethan Hawke (!!) as her cantankerous (and sometimes abusive) husband Everett. Dh & I went to see it this past weekend. It's one of those quiet little movies, focused more on character and relationship development than plot or action, but we both enjoyed it.  The performances are touching, the scenery is lovely (although, as purists will tell you, it was filmed in Newfoundland, not Nova Scotia), the music (including songs by Mary Margaret O'Hara and the Cowboy Junkies) evocative. Spoiler alert:  there's even an ALI subplot -- apparently based in fact -- which was a complete surprise to me. (Maud & Everett had no children together.) There's a brief film clip of the real Maud & Everett at the very end of the movie, and images of Maud's paintings are interspersed among the closing credits.    

I don't know how much play "Maudie" will get outside of Canada, or even outside of the Maritimes and a few larger Canadian cities (although I am sure it will eventually show up on CBC television someday...!), but it has been well received by critics, and got two thumbs up from dh & me. :)    

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Loribeth for sharing, looks like a good one to see and is being released more broadly...coming to Aus in June.