NEW HAMBURG, Ontario, Canada – Eleven original paintings by renowned Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (1903-1980) sold for a total of $559,510 at an online-only Canadiana & Folk Art auction held on 8 October by Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd., based in New Hamburg, Ontario. Overall, 344 lots were auctioned during the auction, which fetched $871,695.
All figures quoted in this report are in Canadian dollars.
Of the eleven Maud Lewis paintings up for auction, Winter sleigh ride was one of the highest expected earners, with a pre-sale estimate of $20,000 to $25,000. It ended up selling for $100,300. The signed mixed media, circa 1955, 9 inch by 11 inch on beaver board was a delightful early Christmas scene, similar to a later image used for a series of Canadian postage stamps.
Maud Lewis was one of Canada’s most renowned artists, the subject of numerous monographs, novels, plays, documentaries and even a feature film. She was born in relative comfort and obscurity, and died in poverty, while enjoying national fame. She overcame severe physical difficulties to create a unique artistic style and sparked a folk art boom in her home province.
Although she rarely left her small home, Lewis’ works traveled the world, and in the decades since her death she has become an iconic figure, a symbol of Nova Scotia and a character. beloved in the popular imagination. She painted many different vehicles which became part of her life and inspired many of her subjects. Black was his favorite color.
Canadian artist John H. Kinnear corresponded with Ms Lewis from the time she rose to fame in the 1960s until her death, acting as her de facto agent. Kinnear would send her Masonite boards, brushes and paints as requested. Maud would send the finished paintings to Kinnear for them to sell; he would ship the product to his home in Marshalltown.
“The simplicity and honesty of Canadian folk art by Maud Lewis, Joe Sleep and Joe Norris crushed high expectations,” said Ethan Miller of Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. we. This sale was a compilation of three major collections and the highlights of each worked well. What this has shown us is that collectors are willing to pay for documented pieces of proven provenance.
The beginning, circa 1975, of the harbor scene oil on panel by the late master folk artist Joe Norris (1924-1996), titled Lower perspective (the Nova Scotia town where Norris spent most of his life), signed and titled lower left, left the coin for $7,080. Also an oil on panel painting of flowers by another Nova Scotian master, Joe Sleep (1914-1978), 28 ½ inches square and signed and dated by the artist (’77) lower right , grossed $6,490. Mr. Sleep learned to draw while hospitalized in Halifax.
The rest of the auction was a fresh market offering of Canadian and folk art, from some of the country’s oldest collections. The backbone of the sale was built on Jim Fleming’s collection of world-class walking canes and folk art sculptures. Also in the running are Canadiana and folk art by Marty Osler and items from the collection of Susan Murray.
An exquisite mixed media diorama by Adélard Brousseau of Quebec titled maple sugar time (circa 1930), finished at $10,620. It was a wonderful rendition of a traditional rural Quebec scene, measuring 36 ½ inches long by 21 inches high by 24 ½ inches wide. Brousseau created the diorama by meticulously sculpting, one by one, the figures, tools and animals in the scene.
An acrylic on paper by Canadian forest artist Norval Morrisseau (1932-2007) titled Ancestral Visitor, (1998) brought together many elements, such as spirits, a continuation of life within an animal’s body while showing a connection to other life and spirit forms. The signed work, measuring 22 inches by 30 inches (as viewed, minus the frame), fetched $11,800.
The walking sticks in the Jim Fleming Collection included these rare and fine examples:
- An Iroquois/Christian Resurrection cane in black painted hardwood made in Quebec in the second half of the 19th century, with a stylized carving of a beaver for one handle (one of only two known), carved with a bird, Christ the cock on the cross, serpent, etc. ($7,080).
- Carved walking stick from the Maritimes of Eastern Canada, dating from the mid-19th century, made of sea ivory, baleen and narwhal tusks, with the handle carved in the shape of a forearm with a closed hand, and the spirally fluted carved handle, 39 ½ inches in length ($5,015).
- Women’s walking stick documented circa 1920 with a ribbed ball attributed to Willard MacKenzie (Cape Breton, NS), made of hardwood, with gray and green paint and having a top with a compressed ball; below, bathers carrying a basket ($3,835).
A figured tiger maple secretary made circa 1840 and attributed to Grobb (Lincoln County, Ontario), made of secondary pine wood and pressed glass and brass handles on the inside, changed hands for $4,720. Also, a patent design (or vendor’s sample) of a Massey Harris #7B single-furrow plough, stamped “No. 7B Massey-Harris” in the cast, fetched $3,835. The Canadian Patent Office granted thousands of patents for agricultural implements beginning in 1824.
A late 19th century carved, stained and painted Quebec pine gum box, a beautiful book-shaped box with one drawer, boldly carved with three straps and leaf fronds, and a spine with various geometric carvings and crosses, changed hands for $9,440; while a carved gum box Tree of Life in tinted birch, the back of which is carved “Frank Martel, Saint-Jérôme, 1910”, one side carved with the Tree of Life and birds, the other side with a chalice in an oval field, decorated with gold paint, fetches $4,248.
A seven-foot totem pole, created on Manitoulin Island around 1940, having a large untouched surface and a vibrantly colored patina, made by an unknown (but talented) artist, went to a determined bidder for $7,670. Also, a mixed media on collage on black arches paper by Anne Meredith Barry (Canadian, 1932-2003), titled Traveling Vest #12, The Avalon in January (1987), incorporating bright colors, whimsical patterns and handwritten text, went to $4,720.
Internet bidding was done through the Miller & Miller website (www.MillerandMillerAuctions.com), plus LiveAuctioneers.com. Bids by telephone and mail were also accepted. A total of 455 people registered to bid online, placing just under 8,000 cumulative bids. 99% of the lots were sold and 68% of the first 50 lots exceeded the estimate. All prices include an 18% buying commission.
Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd., has three major auctions scheduled for the remainder of this year and early 2023, all online only and all scheduled for Saturday. They include a luxury watch auction on November 19; an auction of automobiles, advertising and toys (The Gary Archer Collection) on December 3; and a Canadiana & Folk Art auction on February 11, 2023.
Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. is Canada’s trusted seller of high value collections and always accepts quality shipments. The company specializes in watches and jewelry, art, antiques and high-value collectibles. Its mission is to provide collectors with a trusted place to buy and sell.
Learn more about Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. and on the list of upcoming company auctions, please visit www.millerandmillerauctions.com. Updates are released frequently.
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