1080 Keewatin St,
Thunder Bay, ON, P7B 6T7

Maud Lewis

BANNER IMAGE: Maud Lewis (1903–1970), White Cat (detail), 1965/1966, oil on Beaverboard, 27.9 × 33 cm; framed: 43.2 × 48.3 cm,  Private Collection, The Lewis Family

Canada’s most beloved folk artist, Maud Lewis (1903–1970) has captured the hearts of many with her dazzling depictions of rural Nova Scotia. Her paintings describe a way of life in the Maritimes that was rapidly changing, as the horse and buggy gave way to the automobile and small-scale net fishing was overtaken by industrial fisheries. Her works are thus both documentary and deeply nostalgic.

Born Maud Dowley, Lewis was raised in the town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, the daughter of a blacksmith. Until her final days, she would revisit in her paintings the happy scenes of her childhood, depicting as well the birds and animals remembered from that time. Hers was an art of unbridled joy, despite the many harrowing setbacks she faced: her rheumatoid arthritis, which worsened as she progressed toward adulthood; the early deaths of her parents; the loss of her baby daughter born out of wedlock (and placed secretly with another family by Lewis’s father); and the difficulties of her later marriage. Her desire to make art was the driving force in her life.

Lewis had an instinctive gift for colour and composition, and she put that gift to remarkable use in her variations on set themes —from cats and kittens, to covered bridges, to her scenes of boats in harbour. We have gathered several of these series together, the better to understand her vision and appreciate the exuberant creativity she brought to the art of painting. Lewis sold the paintings from her little house as the side of the road in Marshalltown, NS, where she lived with her husband, Everett, from 1938 until her death in 1970, leaving through her work a legacy of irrepressible delight.

Maud Lewis (1903–1970), Three Black Cats, oil on board, 30.2 × 30.2 cm, Collection of CFFI Ventures Inc. as collected by John Risley


This exhibition was organized and circulated by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and curated by Sarah Milroy, Chief Curator.


McMichael Canadian Art Collection Logo


lead sponsors


  exhibition contributor 

Morneau Shepell Logo


this exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of
the Museums Assistance Program, Exhibition Circulation Fund.


Canadian heritage logo


All images on this page © Art Gallery of Nova Scotia