New Burger Ontario –
Eager for some uplifting news, a man from Western Canada stumbles across a story about a painting that’s about to go up for auction. The work of famed Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis was used in exchange for some grilled cheese sandwiches in the 1970s. It recently had a pre-auction estimate of around $35,000.
“There wasn’t a lot of good news out there, and then I saw that little article,” the buyer, who asked not to be named, told CTV News.
“I haven’t actually heard of Maud Lewis.”
The man recently bought the painting for a record $350,000, five times the price of any previous Lewis painting and 10 times its estimate.
He and his wife watched a film about Lewis the night before the auction and said they thought it would be nice to be involved in the story behind the painting, which is a black truck on a country road.
“I’ve been saying to my wife for the past four or five years that I’m looking for a black pickup, and I think I’ve found it,” he said.
The staggering price of the painting still leaves collectors in an uproar to this day.
Ethan Miller of Miller Miller Auctions, which listed the painting, said: “The galleries that have these things for sale, right away have nothing to sell because the prices are being calibrated.”
Lewis, who died in 1970, spent most of her life in a one-bedroom apartment in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia. She suffers from debilitating arthritis and sells her paintings curbside, usually for $5. She sourced pigments from local fishermen and her work has been described as joyful, joyful and childish. They often resemble scenes of country life, including landscapes and wide-eyed cats.
“She’s totally untrained, but I think that’s why people love it so much,” said Justin Miller, co-operator of New Burger Auctions in Ontario.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, I think people are looking for something exciting, something colorful, something fun,” he said.
Another painting by Lewis, depicting a pair of cows, also sold at auction for $70,000, the second-highest price ever paid for a work of hers.
Bill Mayberry is an art dealer who has sold over 250 paintings since the 1980s. He said the sale could set off a trend for most of Lewis’ paintings, noting that she initially sold the artwork on her Christmas cards for pennies.
“She would be completely surprised and bewildered by the amount of attention her work has received in recent years. Numbers she can’t even imagine,” Mayberry said.
The truck painting, one of three known to exist, was acquired by Irene Demas and her husband Tony nearly 50 years ago. The couple run a restaurant in London, Ontario, where local artist John Kinnear is a regular. Kinnear had been helping Lewis with supplies, and in return she sent him several of her paintings. He offered Demas six of them in exchange for a lunchtime grilled cheese sandwich.
“One that caught my eye was the black truck. It’s a very bright, very happy little painting,” DeMars said.
“I’m pregnant with my son and I thought it would be lovely in the nursery.”
She chose only one painting.
Nearly 50 years later, she can’t believe it sold for so much money.
“I wish I took all six,” she said with a laugh.
She hopes the story will attract more attention from Lewis, who has spent most of her life in obscurity.
“I think it’s time for Canadians to pay more attention to her and appreciate her.”