HALIFAX — A recently discovered painting by Maud Lewis will go on display Tuesday, as the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia highlights its collection of the famed folk artist's works to coincide with a new feature film on her life.
The work entitled "Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen, Bay View, N.S.," was recently found by volunteers sorting through donations to the Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Centre in New Hamburg, Ont.
"We read about it in the newspaper when it was discovered," said gallery CEO Nancy Noble.
"Because of the release of the film and everything that was going on related to Maud's life ... I phoned the art gallery that was caring for it after they found it at the thrift shop and asked if we could borrow it for the week for the opening of the film."
A Newfoundland-Irish co-production, Maudie, which stars Hollywood star Ethan Hawke and British actress Sally Hawkins, opens in limited release in Halifax, Vancouver, Toronto and Ottawa on April 14, nationwide by April 28 and in mid-June in the U.S. It has received critical acclaim at various festivals around the world and captured the Super Channel People's Choice award at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Noble said the timing around the recent find of the painting and the release of the film is "serendipitous" for the gallery, which is home to the largest public collection of Lewis's work in the world — about 40 pieces including her tiny art-strewn house.
The painting will be on display Tuesday through Sunday along with a small display of photographs from the film and costumes worn by Hawkins and Hawke.
"A lot of people in Nova Scotia know about Maud but many people in Canada don't, so I think it's really a great opportunity to showcase her work and really to extend that to the great work of many Nova Scotia artists," Noble said.
Noble, who was in Ottawa on unrelated business last week, said she drove to Kitchener, Ont., where she picked up the painting before flying it back to Halifax from Toronto.
The painting is done on beaverboard, a pulp board Lewis used for many of her paintings, and is estimated to be worth $12,000 - $16,000.
Sarah Fillmore, the gallery's chief curator, said there is no official catalogue of Lewis's work, so it's pretty special when a piece turns up as it did in Ontario.
"I'd like to think that there could be many Mauds out there that we haven't yet found, but it's really pretty darn rare to be picking through a thrift shop bin and come across something like this," said Fillmore.
Lewis, who lived in poverty for most of her life, sold her paintings from her home near Digby, N.S., for as little as $2 and $3. She died in 1970, but her paintings have since sold for up to $22,000.
Two of her works were ordered by the White House during Richard Nixon's presidency after Lewis achieved national attention through an article in the Star Weekly and was featured in a CBC TV documentary.
Fillmore said Lewis's appeal lies in accessible works that reflected her personal surroundings and experiences.
"There is a great amount of interest and a lot of people working to make sure that Maud has the place that she deserves in the history books," Fillmore said.
The painting is to be eventually sold through an online auction to support the Mennonite Central Committee's relief, development and peace-building work.
The auction is to begin following an advance screening of the movie on April 20 in Waterloo, Ont., and will end on May 19.
The painting will also be on view from April 21 to May 19 at the Homer Watson House and Gallery in Kitchener.
Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press