HALIFAX — Anyone trying to close two stolen paintings by famed Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis has a tougher job ahead of them, after Nova Scotia RCMP made their theft public on Monday.
The paintings, worth an estimated $20,000 each, were stolen Sept. 10 from a private residence in Smiths Cove, Nova Scotia, about two hours west of Halifax, police said. Nothing else was stolen from the house during the burglary.
Attempts to locate the paintings have so far proved unsuccessful, and the RCMP are hoping that going public with the theft and releasing photographs of the paintings will get them some leads.
“If anyone has seen this message…and notices someone trying to sell it, I hope they will call the police and give us that information,” the RCMP spokeswoman said. Lisa Croteau.
The announcement is likely to have a chilling effect on potential sales of the stolen artwork, as the first thing gallery owners or auctioneers will do when presented with a Maud Lewis painting is a provenance research, said Shannon Parker, Laufer curator of collections at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
In the case of this pair of paintings, this search would quickly reveal the fact that they had been stolen.
Lewis, a reclusive folk artist from Nova Scotia, was born in Yarmouth and lived in a small house in Marshalltown, western Nova Scotia, from her marriage to her husband Everett in 1938 until her death. in 1970. A progressively worsening case of rheumatoid arthritis limited his mobility and made painting progressively more difficult in his final days.
Despite this, she produced hundreds of paintings, usually simple, cheerful, colorful, somewhat nostalgic scenes from her native province.
Despite a resurgence of interest in her work in the mid-1960s—a time when she raised the prices of her paintings to $5 from the $2–3 she charged—Lewis was still poor at the time of her death.
Another surge of interest in his work in the mid-1990s, followed by a film based on his life in 2016, sparked global interest in Lewis and his paintings, from as far away as Australia and Japan.
“A lot of people find them very appealing,” Parker said, explaining Lewis’ popularity. “They are simple. (They use) a lot of primary colors; they are whimsical and have a bit of humor.
“And then, on top of that, there’s the knowledge that you have of this woman who was disabled and had a pretty miserable life, but who created these bright, colorful paintings, and a lot of people react to that very emotionally. .”
The Stolen Paintings, in typical Lewis fashion, are direct and simple compositions making abundant use of primary colors. Both feature a pair of oxen, one with a winter background, the other with a summer background.
Oxen were among Lewis’s favorite subjects, so much so that she often used stencils to reproduce them from paint to paint, Parker said,
“She would often paint a very similar scene over and over again with minor adjustments,” Parker said. “It was a tool that saved him time, but it was also a tool that helped him with his more limited mobility.”
Parker said much of Lewis’s paintings are currently in the hands of private owners, some of whom may or may not know the value of what they own.
But works of art continue to increase in value. In 2016, one of his paintings sold at auction for $45,000, and several others have been auctioned for prices over $20,000.
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