Courtesy Lando Gallery, Edmonton
"Untitled – Oxen"
Maud Lewis, "Untitled – Oxen," circa 1968, oil on paper board, 12” x 14”.
The house where Canada's best-known folk artist created her iconic works was at the heart of a recent award for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. The Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia recognized the gallery and its staff for contributions to Nova Scotia's built heritage in their preservation of Maud Lewis' painted house.
"Her iconic images of rural life in Digby and Yarmouth counties of Nova Scotia resonate with all ages," said Laurie Hamilton, Senior Conservator at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
The conservation of the house is also a story of triumph over difficulty. After Maud's death in 1970 and Everett's passing in 1979, the Painted House, as it became known in the community,was in desperate need of care. In 1984, in an effort to save a fast-deteriorating structure, the government of Nova Scotia bought the house and placed it in the care of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
In 1996, after the structure was moved to Halifax, the painstaking conservation and restoration of the decorative images on and inside the house began and continued for two years. Specialists were needed to conserve metal objects, hand-painted wallpaper, polychrome wood, linoleum, furniture and painted oil-cloth. It became the largest conservation project ever carried out at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Though Maud is best known for her small paintings on board, the tiny one-room house she shared with Everett for 32 years is perhaps her greatest work. She decorated every available surface, inside and out, from bread boxes and trays to the walls, windows and doors, making the house come alive with her imagination and the touch of her brush. It had no electricity or running water, but it became her first canvas for expression during her married life.
The fully restored Painted House is now on permanent display in Halifax, the most-visited part of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. A book for visitor comments records daily the deep emotional response people have to the artist, her home and her amazing story of triumph over adversity.
Maud Lewis' work can be seen at both locations of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax and Yarmouth. The restored Painted House is now anintegral part of the Scotiabank Maud Lewis Gallery in Halifax. Visitors can also see an exhibition of greeting cards by the artist. In Yarmouth, Maud Lewis Homecoming will be on view beginning in April. At Marshalltown, near Digby, a memorial to Maud Lewis, rededicated in September 2013, sits on the original site of the Painted House.
An interactive tour of the Maud Lewis restoration project can be seen on the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia website at www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/ml_interactive/index.html, and a two-minute video appears on gallerieswest.ca.
A story by Portia Priegert around some of Maud Lewis' art appeared in the Fall/Winter 2013 issue of Galleries West and may be viewed online at Back Room.
Report courtesy Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.