'Remarkable spirit': Nova Scotia doctor shares stories of artist Maud Lewis ahead of auction

Dr. Paul H. Minc remembers Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis as "remarkable spirit" who often sold her unique paintings for just $2 each to tourists.

Minc wrote a letter to the Mennonite Central Committee in New Hamburg, Ont., after hearing a Lewis painting – Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen, Bay View, N.S., which is painted on beaverboard – was found in the group's thrift store's donation bin in March.

Minc worked as a rural doctor in Digby, N.S., in 1959 and said he used to visit the folk artist at her home.

She lived in poverty and had a one-room cabin that was covered with her paintings. He said there was even art above her wood-burning, pot-bellied stove.

She slept in the attic, which she accessed by a ladder through a hole in the ceiling.

"At that time, she sold her paintings to U.S. tourists that drove by her home for $2 each," Minc wrote, adding a doctor and lawyer in town, along with the well-known Oland family of New Brunswick also bought many of her paintings.

'She rose above'

"She was an amazing person with a beautiful smile and cheerful despite her serious physical disability, it made one feel good to meet her," Minc wrote of her crippling rheumatoid arthritis.

"Despite everything against her, she rose above. She had a remarkable spirit."

When she died in 1970, Lewis was selling her paintings for about $10. Today, her paintings have sold for up to $22,000.

Minc shared his thoughts on Lewis just ahead of the painting being auctioned off starting Thursday.

The Mennonite Central Committee is hosting a screening of the film, Maudie, at the Princess Twin in Waterloo Thursday, followed by an after-party at the Delta Hotel Waterloo.

Proceeds of the evening will benefit the work of MCC, a Christian group that helps with relief, development and peace efforts in countries where there have been disasters or conflicts.

The live online auction will begin Thursday and will run until May 19.

The painting has been authenticated by JC Miller Antiques and Lewis expert, Alan Deacon.