Maud Lewis: Creating an Icon

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A Gaspereau Field Guide to Canadian Artists: No. 5

More than any other Canadian artist, Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis (1901–70) is defined as much by her life as by her art. While her story was one of poverty, hardship, physical disability, and chronic pain, it was also one of triumph of character and creativity over circumstance. Catering primarily to the tourists who drove past her tiny house each summer, Lewis’s bright, primitive paintings of oxen, cats, boats, and rural scenes were both a response and an invitation to nostalgia. In this essay, Ray Cronin explores how Lewis’s style and imagery became iconic, synonymous both with the way Nova Scotians’ viewed themselves and the way the province would promote itself to the world.

Ray Cronin is a Nova Scotia-based writer and curator. Between 2011 and 2015 he worked at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia as both curator and director. He is the founding curator of the Sobey Art Award. Cronin has written on visual arts for magazines and newspapers for over two decades and is presently the visual arts blogger for Halifax Magazine. He is also the author of the ebook Alex Colville: Art and Life (Arts Canada Institute) and Our Maud: The Art, Life and Legacy of Maud Lewis (Art Gallery of Nova Scotia).

2020 / Canadian Art, Biography Artists / Trade paper / 64 pp