Nova Scotia

Maud Lewis 'a very Canadian story,' says Maudie director

The movie will be released in Canadian theatres Friday, bringing a whole new awareness to the life and work of one of Nova Scotia's most beloved painters.

The film is expected to bring more awareness to the life and work of the Nova Scotia folk art icon

Actor Sally Hawkins played the lead role in Maudie, a film about artist Maud Lewis, which screened at this year's Calgary International Film Festival. (Mongrel Media)

Folk artist Maud Lewis likely never imagined from her tiny house in Marshalltown, N.S., that her life would be depicted in a film.

But on Friday, Maudie will be released in Canadian theatres, bringing a whole new awareness to the life and work of one of Nova Scotia's most famous painters.

"It's a very Canadian story, it's a very Nova Scotian story, but in another way, this is a film that needs to be seen around the world because it celebrates this woman who was rather amazing," said Maudie director Aisling Walsh. 

Lewis was born in 1903 in South Ohio, N.S., not far from Yarmouth. She married her husband, Everett, in 1938 and the two lived without electricity or running water in a modest, one-room home with a loft that Lewis covered in brightly painted flowers, butterflies and birds.

Crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, Lewis spent her days creating small paintings that she advertised for sale on a roadside sign. Her paintings were selling for around $10 when Lewis died in 1970. 

"She worked so hard at it and in such tough conditions sometimes," said Walsh.

Oscar buzz

Sally Hawkins and director Aisling Walsh on the set of Maudie. (Mongrel Media)

The release of Maudie has drawn early praise at film festivals and talk of an Academy Award nomination for actor Sally Hawkins, who plays Maud. It has also created plenty of buzz at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia where the largest public collection of Lewis's work is housed.

One of the gallery's most popular permanent exhibits is Lewis's actual home, which began to deteriorate after her husband's death in 1979. The home was carefully restored starting in 1996 and moved to the gallery.

Nancy Noble, the gallery's director and CEO, said she thinks Maudie will bring an "incredible" awareness of Lewis's life and artwork beyond Nova Scotia and Canada. 

New discovery

The artist in residence: Maud Lewis poses with one of her paintings in front of her home. (Art Gallery of Nova Scotia)

But it isn't just the release of Maudie generating a renaissance for Lewis.

A recently discovered Lewis original titled Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen, Bay View, N.S. is on loan and will be displayed in the Scotiabank Maud Lewis Gallery from Tuesday until Sunday.

The painting, in Lewis's typical vibrant colours, was found by a volunteer in a bin at a thrift shop in New Hamburg, Ont.

After the weeklong showing in Halifax, the painting will be returned to Ontario where it will go on display at the Homer Watson House and Gallery in Kitchener.

This Maud Lewis painting was discovered by volunteers at the New Hamburg Thrift Centre in New Hamburg, Ont. The painting will be auctioned off to support the Mennonite Centre Committee. (Ken Ogasawara/MCC Photo)

It will then be auctioned with proceeds going to the Mennonite Central Committee. It's expected to be sold for between $12,000 and $16,000.

Found painting what 'dreams are made of'

How this newly discovered Lewis painting came to be found makes Sarah Fillmore smile.

"This is one of those exciting things that dreams are made of, that somebody found it in a thrift shop," said Fillmore, chief curator for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

"I like to think any Value Village or Frenchy's might have a Maud Lewis in their bins."

More artwork out there?

Even though the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia only has it for six days, it's a treasure for Lewis fans to see.

"I hope people come and actually see the work and I hope they have questions as to what drove her to make that work," said Fillmore.

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. (Ken Ogasawara/MCC Photo)

Given how prolific Lewis was, Walsh said she believes it's likely there are other undiscovered works of art still out there.

"I think there's still a lot still to be discovered. She painted at least one painting a day, if not two," Walsh said.

About the Author

World champion curler Colleen Jones has been reporting with CBC News for nearly three decades. Follow her on Twitter @cbccolleenjones.