I recently watched a movie on SBS on Demand called ‘Maudie’. It was recommended by one of the members of my art social club. It’s about Maud Lewis.
Maud was born in 1901 on the Yarmouth and Acadian Shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. As a child she spent a lot of time alone because she was self conscious about her differences. She was born with congenital disorders that included acutely sloping shoulders, a curvature of her spine, and a severely recessed chin. She also had juvenile arthritis and was very small in stature. She was happy enough though at home with her parents and her older brother. Her mother got her into painting Christmas cards and thus her obsession with art began.
In 1935 Maud’s father died and in 1937, her mother followed. As was typical at the time, her older brother, Charles, claimed the family inheritance and made no provision for his only sibling. About the same time, Maud bore a child out of wedlock. The baby girl was put up for adoption and never saw her natural mother again. However, Maud was told the baby had been born with multiple deformities and died (neither true). After living with her brother for a short while she moved to Digby to live with her aunt. There she met Everett Lewis, an itinerant fish peddler, when she applied for a position as his ‘housemaid’. She ultimately ended up marrying him shortly after in 1938. Everett was not the easiest of blokes as you will see if you watch the movie. This also extended to him being stingy with money. His stinginess extended to removing the radio batteries so that Maud couldn’t run them down by listening to music, he scrounged up most of her paint supplies, including leftover house and boat paints. He also haggled with customers, most of them passing tourists, over the price of her paintings, which never went for more than $10 during her lifetime. I read that these days, even a small Lewis original can sell for up to $2,000 (Canadian).
Maud spent her remaining days living with Everett in a tiny cottage at Marshalltown. It had no running water or electricity. It looked like it would’ve been freezing in that cottage during winter when they were surrounded in thick snow. During this time she used leftover house paint to brighten the walls and most surfaces of the cottage including the windows, with butterflies, tulips, swans, birds etc. Eventually she began to sell her paintings. Canvas was expensive and hard to come by, so she painted on beaver boards and Masonite and she did it all from her own imagination, from memories, and from what she saw. As time passed Maud’s rheumatoid arthritis worsened and Everett needed to take care of the house, but Maud was bringing in most of the money with her paintings.
Through newspaper and magazine articles, as well as television documentaries, Maud became well known and a reputation grew that’s still growing today. Her folk art style paintings of flowers, cats, scenic views, and her childhood home were light, colourful, and possessed a carefree, childlike view of the world despite all her hardships.
At the age of 67 in 1970, Maud who had suffered lung damage due to constant exposure to paint fumes and wood smoke, contracted pneumonia and died in hospital. Everett died 9 years later in 1979.
The tiny home Maud shared with her husband, Everett, was eventually moved to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia as a permanent display piece. Richard Nixon’s administration commissioned two Maud Lewis paintings for the White House gallery. Due to the popularity of her oil paintings, Maud Lewis prints of scenic Canada, simple pleasures, and wide-eyed animals are still in demand today. See more of Maud Lewis art HERE.
Here’s a trailer of the movie. Sally Hawkins plays Maud Lewis and Ethan Hawke plays Everett Lewis.
Art therapy is a form of expression that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Though she may not have known it – Maud was using art as therapy. Despite the pain and the hardships she faced during her lifetime she found joy and escapism in her art.
This story just reinforces my belief that art therapy is beneficial for all of us. Art Therapy does not require any artistic skill or experience. There’s no right or wrong. You just express yourself in your own way and you may surprise yourself with what you can do.
If you’re enamoured by the story of Maud Lewis like I am, I highly recommend watching the movie but also – a simple Google search and you’ll find out so much more about her life and story!
THE REAL MAUD AND EVERETT LEWIS AND THEIR HOME
MAUDIE – THE MOVIE
I really enjoyed watching ‘Maudie’. She was a strong and inspiring woman with such determination.
If you’d like to watch the movie you can see it on SBS on Demand here:
If you watch it, I’d love it if you popped back here to let me know your thoughts in the comments. Hope you enjoy!
I’ll be back next week with my final Taking Stock post for 2022, then I’ll be taking a break from the blog until the new year. I’m leaving the date of my return up in the air. What will be will be but I’m never away from the blog for too long. Meanwhile, I’ll still be posting over on Instagram (which feeds through to my FB page and Twitter).
Ciao for now,
Linking up with Denyse Whelan’s ‘Wednesday’s Words and Pics‘