Painted Worlds

The Art of Maud Lewis, A Critical Perspective

Reviewed by Joanna Dawson

Posted July 14, 2023

Many people in Canada are familiar with the story of beloved folk artist Maud Lewis, who painted in her one-room home in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, while experiencing poverty and chronic arthritis. The paintings she famously sold on the roadside for five dollars apiece easily fetch tens of thousands of dollars at today’s art actions.

In a recent book, curator and art historian Laurie Dalton challenges the dominant, simplistic view of Lewis’s art and life. In Painted Worlds, a full-colour book featuring some of Lewis’s best- and lesser-known paintings, Dalton provides a thoughtful analysis of her work.

Dalton examines Lewis’s composition and use of colour, as well as her subjects and sources of inspiration. Through close examination of the paintings, as well as of Lewis’s home and surroundings, Dalton explains that Lewis was working within, and contributed to, the visual culture of the postwar era.

Painted Worlds is a beautiful book that will charm readers. Dalton makes a compelling case for why Maud Lewis should receive more serious recognition in the field of art history.

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This article originally appeared in the August-September 2023 issue of Canada’s History.

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