Maud Lewis

A crowd-pleasing show – complete with gaily painted cats, flowers and oxen – wends its way to Calgary.

Publication: Galleries West

Published: June 11, 2021

Author: Paul Gessell

Maud Lewis, “Eerie Train,” circa 1949 /1950

Maud Lewis, “Eerie Train,” circa 1949 /1950 oil on beaverboard, 12” x 12” (collection of CFFI Ventures Inc. as collected by John Risley, L2019.84.23)

The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, a major gallery near Toronto, normally doesn’t show paintings of adorable cats, bright flowers and oxen with impossibly long eyelashes. Instead, it prefers exhibitions of the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson and other favourites of the Canadian establishment.

So, why did a 2019 show of naïf paintings by Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis become, in the words of McMichael chief curator Sarah Milroy, “one of the most successful exhibitions” the gallery has ever had?

The popularity of Maud Lewis, which opens June 19 at the Glenbow in Calgary, was demonstrated by large, summer-long crowds at the McMichael and brisk gift shop souvenir sales. And visitors engaged with the paintings, stopping in front of each work and slowly drinking in details of the composition and colours.

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