I’m suffering jetlag from hopping from Canada to Europe so many times this month. It is impossible to resist following up on comments from readers on the other side of the globe…
I just got a note from Henk, a blogger in the Netherlands. He has an amazing blog, called Outsider Environments Europe http://outsider-environments.blogspot.com/. It has a comprehensive list of strange and wonderful outsider sites in Europe. He describes “an environment” as a relatively large-scale creative construct, related to and redefining the place of living of the maker”. Have a look at some of the photos and you will be packing your bags for a trek through these sites. This photo is the “Shelled Mountain” by French artist Joseph Duffour.
If you read my blogs about Canadian Maud Lewis’s painted house, you may have detected that I was writing about it from a sense of obligation, not passion. Compared to the remarkable outsider environments across Europe, Maud’s house is…well…boring. It’s why I would put Maud’s house into the folk art category. Her house is charming, but it lacks the scope and vision of many projects that are definitely “outsider”. (I know this will trigger a flurry of hate mail from ML fans. Bring it on. I would like someone to teach me how to appreciate folk art – and I am sincere about this.)
I am disappointed that I have a lively dialogue with readers in Europe and the United States, but not Canada. C’mon you guys. There must be some Canadian outsider art – environmental or otherwise – that you can tell me about. Are we really that dull north of the 49th?
The buzz about Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis seems to focus on her tiny (3 x 4 metre) painted house. It was painted inside and out with garden scenes. (Note: this photo shows a replica of her house.)
One site describes it thus:
Lewis lived in a garden, summer and winter. In the mean little cabin, without central heating or indoor plumbing, she painted a fantasy world of cheerful children, pretty seascapes and cherry red songbirds. She splashed bright butterflies and birds across the front door; she filled her windows with pink and blue tulips; she decorated the dustpan with daisies and the stove with big red flowers. No surface escaped her brushes.
Lewis may have painted and sold as many as a couple of thousand pictures in her bold, happy style, but it is her house that confirms the inner brightness of this remarkable woman whose life was one of disability, poverty and ill health.
Maud passed away in 1970; her husband, Edgar, lived there until he died in 1979.The Maud Lewis Painted House Society was formed in 1984 with the intention of rescuing it from ruin. Eventually the house was sold to the Province of Nova Scotia and then, in 1995, the house was disassembled, restored, and reconstructed at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. It is on permanent display there. You can watch a short video about the house restoration.
Maud’s paintings are now highly collectible and prices are climbing. Prices at auction are typically in the $10,000 range, with two fetching between $16,000 and $22,000. It is noted that some paintings are remarkably similar because when Maud liked a subject, she repeated it a few times. There are, for example, multiple paintings of “Two Deer in the Snow”. But there is an “issue” about authenticity. She printed her name on her paintings in a simple way, which has been remarkably easy to copy. And, to make matters worse, her husband, Edgar, made some paintings after her death and signed them with her name.
I happened to check what might be for sale by Maud Lewis on eBay. (It’s an obsessive habit of mine.) I found a watercolour painting for sale by the artist “Maud Lewis”, listed by someone in England who probably picked it up at a garage sale. I have never seen a painting that looked so-NOT-like-Maud-Lewis’s-style in my life. Yet someone had written to ask the seller if it was by the Canadian painter Maud Lewis. The seller said he was “Not familiar with the artist. Best wishes, Roger.” There are 2 bids on the painting, and the price has now escalated to $13.43 (Cdn). I apologize profusely for laughing (out loud) (a lot). I am tempted to throw a monkey wrench in to the works and submit a random bid for $15.
This summarizes the Canadian phenomenon of folk artist, Maud Lewis.