Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis is seeing a resurgence of her work as a recently discovered painting is set to go on display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia starting Tuesday.
The painting, titled Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen, Bay View, N.S. was found in a southern Ontario thrift store donation bin.
“It’s very unusual to find a painting in a thrift shop in a bin, and that someone actually discovered that it was a Maud and kept it and didn’t sell it for $5 on the wall,” said Nancy Noble, director and CEO of the gallery. ” So it’s a great story and we’re interested in Maud. We collect her work. She’s an important Nova Scotia artist so I think we all just felt it was really important to bring it home at least for a week.”
Lewis lived in poverty most of her life and sold her paintings out of her Digby, N.S., home. She sold the paintings for as little as $2 or $3, but since her death in 1970, her artwork has sold for up to $22,000.
The recently discovered painting, which was found in the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Centre in New Hamburg, Ont., was painted on an 11-inch by 13-inch canvas and will be displayed in the Maud Lewis Gallery – home to the largest public collection of Maud Lewis works in the world – from April 11 to 16.
Finding a Maud Lewis painting in the way it was found was a “fortunate find” for the person who found it, according to Zwicker Gallery co-director Ian Muncaster.
“Maud is so well-known these days, particularly in Canada, and her style is recognizable, and I think most people would be able to recognize her, a Maud Lewis,” Muncaster said.
Display of the painting also coincides with the upcoming release of the film Maudie, on Friday.
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Lewis is portrayed by Sally Hawkins and tells the story of her marriage to fish peddler Everett Lewis, played by Ethan Hawke. The movie has received critical acclaim at numerous festivals around the world, including being featured during the Atlantic Film Festival.
Muncaster said this, along with a recently released book about Lewis, continues to raise awareness.
“So the whole sort of Maud Lewis phenomenon will continue, I think,” he said.
Noble said the gallery learned about the painting from reading about it in the news, and with the release of the upcoming film, she called the gallery housing the painting and asked if they could borrow it for the week of the film.
She then took a trip down from Ottawa, where she was for business, and drove to Kitchener, Ont. on Friday, picked it up Saturday and caught a flight back to Halifax with painting in hand.
“[It’s] very serendipitous that we found it, that it was found at this time,” Noble said. “It’s an opportunity to raise awareness of Maud and her work and Nova Scotia artists, which is what we’re here to do.”
Sarah Fillmore, chief curator for the art gallery, said the way the piece of work was found was unique.
“I’d love to say it happens every day, I mean I like to think that there could be many Mauds out there that we haven’t yet found,” Fillmore said. “But it’s really, pretty darn rare to be picking through a thrift shop bin and come across something like this and have the wherewithal to think it has a specific value with a specific background. So I think it’s pretty special.”
The painting will eventually be sold at auction after it returns to Ontario following the display. The Mennonite Central Committee is holding the auction and it’s estimated the painting will sell at between $12,000 and $16,000.
The auction is to begin following an advance screening of the movie on April 20 in Waterloo, Ont., and will end on May 19.
The painting will also be on view from April 21 to May 19 at the Homer Watson House and Gallery in Kitchener.
–With files from The Canadian Press and Jennifer Grudic, Global News