If there’s a movie out there that will convince you that you need to live in an isolated one-bedroom house on the Eastern edge of Canada, it’s Maudie. Whether you’re Canadian or not, or an art lover or not, Maudie is a beautiful and emotional journey worth taking.
I knew quite a bit about Maud Lewis before seeing the movie. Two years ago, I travelled to Halifax to visit my cousin who, at the time, was attending Dalhousie University. One of our stops during my stay was the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where there is an ongoing exhibit dedicated to Maud.
Maud was born to the Dowley family of rural Nova Scotia in 1903 and suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. At a young age, Maud’s mother taught her how to paint and together they would paint Christmas cards for family and neighbours. Following the deaths of her parents in 1935 and 1937, Maud went to live with her aunt in Digby, Nova Scotia. Maud was a determined and stubborn person, wanting to prove she could be independent despite her physical limitations. Maud met a local fish peddler called Everett Lewis after he posted an ad for a housekeeper; she moved in to the now famously decorated tiny house and the couple married in 1938. Maud’s condition worsened but she kept painting – selling cards and paintings for as little as $2.50. Maud’s work would receive heightened attention in 1965, when she and Everett were the subjects of a nationally broadcasted CBC segment, and the subjects of an article in the Toronto Star. Maud passed away in 1970. While alive, none of Maud’s paintings sold for more than $10.00. Today she is one of Canada’s most well-known folk artists.
You can watch the CBC segment here.
Maudie paid tribute beautifully to Maud’s life and her art. It was simple but stunning, and slow but powerful, not unlike Maud. It’s fairly commonly accepted that Everett Lewis was not the best guy. Sure, he may have loved Maud and she may have loved him too, but he was miserable and stingy and controlling. Everett was killed in 1979 when a burglar attempted to rob the house – he was known to keep Maud’s money hidden on their property. They touched briefly on some of his flaws in the movie, but I couldn’t help feel like they skirted around some of the facts. Ethan Hawke’s performance was very compelling, but Sally Hawkins blew me away with her portrayal of Maud. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hawkins gets Oscar attention for her performance – she and the movie did Maud justice.
I can’t stress enough, first of all, to see this movie if you have the chance, but secondly to visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia if you ever find yourself in Halifax. It has the largest collection of Maud’s original paintings and even Maud and Everett’s house which has been restored and is an actual part of the exhibit (that’s how small it is). I had never heard of Maud Lewis before going there, but it was mesmerizing and captivating. Maudie made me feel the same way.