A VISIT WITH MAUD AT HOME

Artists' stu­dios can be re­veal­ing spa­ces. Inside, you can catch a rare glimpse into the cre­ative process, and see the ob­jects that sur­round— and even in­flu­ence—the de­vel­op­ing art­work.

Canadian Art - - Generously Supported By Rbc - info.desk@no­vas­co­tia.ca art­gallery­ofno­vas­co­tia.ca

It’s no won­der that tourists flock to the workspace of painter Fran­cis Ba­con, recre­ated in Dublin, or travel along the rue Hip­polyte-main­dron to en­ter Gi­a­cometti’s Parisian sculp­ture stu­dio. On oc­ca­sion, though, a stu­dio is more than just a place where works are com­pleted; it’s a work in and of it­self. Such is the case with the small wood-framed home of self-taught painter Maud Lewis, who has long been a na­tional icon, but is only start­ing to gather the in­ter­na­tional ac­claim she de­serves.

Lewis was born in Yar­mouth, Nova Sco­tia, in 1903. She was small, born with a curved spine and suf­fer­ing from se­vere arthri­tis, and she pre­ferred time alone to the com­pany of other chil­dren. It was dur­ing th­ese hours of so­lace that Lewis be­gan paint­ing, first cre­at­ing Christ­mas cards for her mother. Lit­tle could she have known how im­por­tant this self-taught ed­u­ca­tion would be.

Af­ter mar­ry­ing labourer Everett Lewis and mov­ing into his tiny, one-room home in Mar­shall­town, Nova Sco­tia, Lewis lived and worked in this space from 1938 un­til her death. It was here that she cre­ated and sold her sunny com­po­si­tions, build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion for her­self and at­tract­ing at­ten­tion from the na­tional press dur­ing her life­time.

But Lewis didn’t just cre­ate work and sell it out of the home; she turned the home into a work of art. Bright birds and but­ter­flies soar across the front door; a gar­den of painted tulips blooms along a win­dow­pane. Inside, Lewis’s mod­est work­sta­tion, a small wooden chair next to a win­dow, sits as she left it. Most sur­faces—from the stair ban­is­ters to the oven—are cov­ered in the sig­na­ture colour­ful and cheery de­signs of Lewis, and the few be­long­ings speak to a sim­ple life.

The house it­self is now tucked within the Art Gallery of Nova Sco­tia. Af­ter Everett’s death, the build­ing was left empty and be­gan de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. A fundrais­ing cam­paign helped move the house into stor­age, where it was care­fully re­stored, be­fore be­ing placed into a new gallery at the AGNS, where it has been housed since the mid-1990s. No at­ten­tion to de­tail was spared: orig­i­nal wall­pa­pers were re­searched and repli­cated, the be­long­ings that Lewis had left be­hind were re­stored, and ob­jects iden­ti­fied in pho­to­graphs and film doc­u­ment­ing Lewis were ac­quired.

It was a big project for a lit­tle house, but the build­ing is so much more than just a struc­ture. Mu­se­ums across the coun­try have plenty of Lewis's paint­ings, and Hol­ly­wood now has the Lewis block­buster—but only the AGNS has the lit­tle painted house, which, ul­ti­mately, was the great­est work of Lewis’s life­time.

MAUD LEWIS

MAUD LEWIS'S PAINTED HOUSE IS PER­MA­NENTLY ON DIS­PLAY AT THE ART GALLERY OF NOVA SCO­TIA

ART GALLERY OF NOVA SCO­TIA 1723 Hol­lis Street, Hal­i­fax, Nova Sco­tia

PUR­CHASED BY THE PROV­INCE OF NOVA SCO­TIA, 1984 A1998.1 COUR­TESY ART GALLERY OF NOVA SCO­TIA PHOTO STEVE FARMER

Maud Lewis's painted house at the Art Gallery of Nova Sco­tia.

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