HALIFAX – Anyone trying to protect two stolen paintings by famous Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis has a tougher job ahead of them after Nova Scotia RCMP made their theft public on Monday.
The paintings, estimated at $ 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 hope that publicizing the theft and posting photographs of the paintings will allow them to gather some leads.
“If anyone has seen this message … and notices that someone is trying to sell it, I hope they will call the police and give us this information,” the RCMP spokeswoman said, Lisa Croteau.
The ad 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 they come up with a painting by Maud Lewis is a provenance researcher, said Shannon Parker, curator of Laufer’s collections at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
In the case of this pair of paintings, this research 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 his death in 1970. A case of gradually worsening rheumatoid arthritis limited his mobility and made painting progressively more difficult in his later days.
Despite this, she produced hundreds of paintings, generally simple, cheerful, colorful, somewhat nostalgic scenes of 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-90s, followed by a film based on his life in 2016, sparked worldwide interest in Lewis and his paintings, from as far away as Australia and Japan.
“A lot of people find them very attractive,” Parker said, explaining Lewis’s popularity. “They are simple. (They use) lots of primary colors; they are whimsical and have a bit of humor.
“And then on top of that is knowing that you have this woman who was disabled and had a pretty miserable life, but who created these bright and colorful paintings, and a lot of people respond to that. very emotional way. “
The stolen paintings, in typical Lewis fashion, are simple, straightforward compositions making liberal 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 her time, but it was also a tool that helped her with her more limited mobility.”
Parker said the bulk 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 the works continue to increase in value. In 2016, one of his paintings sold at auction for $ 45,000, and several others were auctioned for prices in excess of $ 20,000.