Bidding tops $125K for Maud Lewis painting found in thrift shop

A month-long auction of a Maud Lewis painting that was found in a New Hamburg, Ont., thrift store donation bid has reached $125,208 after 26 bids.

'What’s happened so far has been a big set of surprises and maybe there’s more to come'

Louis Silcox, a volunteer, and Karla Richards, the general manager of the New Hamburg Thrift Centre, hold an original Maud Lewis painting discovered at centre amongst donations. The painting is being auctioned off online and bidding has already reached more than $125,000. (Ken Ogasawara/MCC Photo)

The auction for a Maud Lewis painting found in a New Hamburg thrift shop is less than a week old, but with 26 bids recorded, it's already reached $125,208.

The painting, entitled Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fisherman, Bay View, N.S., is valued at $16,000.

Lewis, a folk artist, lived in poverty for most of her life and sold paintings from her small home near Digby, N.S., for as little as $2 and $3. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis.

Since her death in 1970, Lewis's paintings have sold for up to $22,000.

The painting was discovered in a donation bin at the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift store in New Hamburg in March. A volunteer at the store recognized the piece and had it appraised. It's not known who donated the painting.

Rick Cober Bauman, the executive director of MCC Ontario, said they were not expecting the large jump in the amount of money being bid on the painting.

"No one's more surprised than me," he said Tuesday.

"We continue to find joy in the fact that a woman who lived a very spartan life, really on the edge of poverty in many ways, now her work, this particular piece at least, is going to make quite a contribution to MCC's work, which at its core is all about alleviating poverty, whether it's caused by war or other kinds of conditions."
Maud Lewis works on a painting in her home. (Courtesy Art Gallery of Nova Scotia)

Auction runs to May 19

Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen, Bay View, N.S. is painted on beaverboard, a pulp board Lewis used for many of her paintings.

The painting has been authenticated by JC Miller Antiques and Lewis expert, Alan Deacon.

Proceeds from the auction will benefit the work of MCC, a Christian group that helps with relief, development and peace efforts in countries where there have been disasters or conflicts.

The auction opened April 20 and ends at 9 p.m. ET May 19.

Some of the fun of auctions is watching to see just how high bidders will go and Cober Bauman said they will keep their eyes on the online auction to see if it goes much higher.
Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen, Bay View, N.S. is painted on beaverboard, a pulp board, which artist Maud Lewis regularly used. (Ken Ogasawara/MCC Photo)

He said the quick jump did bump a number of interested people out of the auction early.

"We don't quite know if it's finished," he said.

"Who knows. What's happened so far has been a big set of surprises and maybe there's more to come."

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