Why do people love these paintings so much? An answer comes from Shannon Parker, a curator at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia who manages the Halifax institution’s collection of some 40 Lewis paintings, assorted artifacts and even the artist’s tiny, gaily painted house, relocated right into the gallery.
“So many people try to explain what draws them to her artwork,” says Parker. “And they just say: ‘She makes me smile.’”
Maud Lewis, “Black and White Cat,” 1962 oil on board, 12” × 9” (collection of CFFI Ventures Inc. as collected by John Risley, L2019.84.41)
After a year of COVID-19, including the third wave that hit Alberta so ferociously this spring, Calgarians undoubtedly will welcome a chance to smile when the Glenbow reopens June 19. (Admission will be free until June 26 to welcome people back.)
The show, which includes 140 paintings gussied up in eye-catching primary colours with cheerful scenery featuring winter sleigh rides and bucolic pastures, continues until Aug. 29.
Both Milroy and Parker say part of the allure is the backstory – many people feel a desire to make a connection to Lewis, whose sad, hard life has been publicized in books and film.
This phenomenon is not limited to Lewis. Think of Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. We are drawn to his work even more upon learning of his extreme poverty and mental illness.