Artist biography Database



Maude Lewis

Maud Lewis painted to bring light to her simple, rural life. Her art reflected "an inner light that found joy in memories and imaginings of rural Nova Scotia, and the animals, landscapes, and activities that define country life" Others found joy in her art as well and they enjoyed passing by her wondrously painted home. Maud never thought of herself as an artist. Painting is just what she enjoyed doing. She had no formal art training, she only used to paint cards and objects at an early age. She has never been to a gallery of know of others who painted. She knew that paint can be used to create images that pleased herself and others. Maud Lewis was born in 1903 to John and Agnes Dowley in South Ohio, Nova Scotia. John was a harness maker. As a young child, Maud Lewis spent much of her time alone. She had been born with almost no chin and was always small. As she grew older she gained rheumatoid arthritis which restricted most of her movement. Maud was a happy child she enjoyed spending her time at home with her family. She learned how to play the piano, The family enjoyed listening to music. Maud and her mother painted Christmas cards to sell to friends and neighbors for many years. Her experience of the world extended between Yarmouth Country and her married home in Marshaltown, Digby Country. There are many stories to how Maud came to live in her tiny home the most popular belief is that Maud's response to a notice Everett posted at the store for a "live in" that also lead to their marriage in 1938. The tiny home the Lewis' shared for over 30 years had no electricity and therefore no T.V.... to bring the outside world in until she was giving a small battery operated portable radio. There was no indoor plumbing, the only heat was provided by a large wood burning stove. The house was 4.1 m by 3.8 m with a very small sleeping loft at the top of the stairs. Her health restricted her physical mobility so much that as an adult she rarely left her home, or even the corner where she painted by the window. The painting's of Maud Lewis were painted for the joy of adding color and fun to a quiet, rural life. she painted a huge number of paintings depicting a charming rural life full of flowers, cats, colorful teams of oxen, sleigh rides, birds, and deer. These were painted on small pieces of wood pulpboard, often ill measured. She painted with whatever could be obtained--oil based house paints, boat paint, and cheap hobby paint. She used poor quality brushes whose hair can often be found embedded in the paint of the pictures. The paintings were sold from her home for as little as $2.50. Some where sold at local store and as her popularity grew so did the prices of her art pieces, therefore she could buy better materials and paints. She also painted cards which Everett sold from his wagon when he made fish deliveries. Shells and beach stones were painted for sales to tourist. 

"Although she was not a formally trained artist, Maud's work
demonstrates that she had a strong sense of composition,
learned from close observation of any visual material that came
her way--postcards, calendars, greeting cards. Her paintings
solve difficult composition problems in depicting perspective
and presenting images that invite exploration. Her early
paintings are quite complex in arrangement as she tackles
harbour scenes, rolling farmland, and countryside.

Later works are often more simplified in design, the colours
richer and in flat application. This may be because as demand
for the work grew she worked faster and more simply or, that
simplicity came with failing health and mobility. It may also be
the result of the maturing of a style approaching a more
abstract vision. When she made an image that she particularly
liked or that others requested she made many variations on the

"1903 Maud born March 7, the only daughter to John Nelson Dowley and Agnes Mary
Dowley in South Ohio, Nova Scotia. 
1914 The Dowley family moves to the shire town of Yarmouth, Maud's father opens a
successful harness shop. 
1914 At the age of 11, Maud completes Grade Three and ends her formal schooling.
Maud spends much of her time alone or with her mother. Maud begins to paint and learns
to play the piano. 
1935 Maud's father dies. 
1937 Maud's mother dies. Maud lives briefly with her brother, Charles and his wife. She
is hastily sent by her brother to live with Aunt Ida Germaine in Digby, Nova Scotia.
Maud and her brother never speak again. 
1938 Maud marries Everett Lewis, an itinerant fish peddler, and moves into his tiny
house in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia. 
1938 Everett sells Maud's painted Christmas cards door to door from his Model T Ford as Maud waits in the car. 
1939 Everett takes a job as night watchman at the "Poor Farm." Maud begins to sell her paintings from the house. 
1950 Maud's reputation grows beyond Digby County. As well as cards and boards, Maud paints household and found items including baking tins,
rocks and scallop shells. 
1965 Maud is featured on CBC-TV Telescope broadcast and in numerous newspaper stories. The publicity brings in orders from around the world. 
1968 Maud's health goes into decline after she falls and breaks her hip. 
1970 Maud dies on July 30th. Everett engraves Maud's maiden name, Maud Dowley, at the base of his parents' stone. 
1979 Everett dies at home in a struggle with an intruder. "


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