In the poor rural village of Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, there used to be a little house by the side of the road. Passers by would notice that the tiny dwelling was painted in brightly coloured flowers, leaves and birds. It was home to the artist Maud Lewis and her husband Elliott, and was perhaps her greatest work of art.
Born in 1903, Maud Lewis suffered from an early age of severe rheumatoid arthritis, and found solace in painting. Marrying a local door-to-door fish salesman, Maud and Elliott made the miniature 12 foot square building their home for over 40 years. With no formal training, Maud would paint the poor rural community around her; farmers, oxen, cats and villagers on sleigh rides, using whatever materials she could find…..board, boat paints and hobby brushes. Elliot would sell the paintings on his fishing sales routes for as little as $2.50 each. Life in Marshalltown was hard, but Maud painted a world full of colour and happiness.
When she wasn’t selling for the villagers, Maud painted every inch of the house inside and out; the cast iron stove, the stairs, the walls, everything down to the dustpans and washboards.
After she passed away in 1970, Elliot following nine years later, the house lay abandoned. Until the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia moved the entire house into it’s permanent collection. Today Maud Lewis’ paintings fetch as much as $20,000 auction, but she and Elliot lived their lives in simple poverty.
Today visitors to Halifax and the museum will find tucked away in one of the corner rooms a tiny wooden house, beautifully painted with love by a little old lady.