A painting recently discovered at an Ontario thrift store by renowned folk artist Maud Lewis sold in auction for almost three times its estimated price.
The online auction ended Friday night and the painting, which was appraised at $16,000, went for $45,000.
Rick Cober Bauman, the executive director of Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, said it’s been quite the journey since “Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fishermen” was found a little more than a year ago by volunteers sorting through donations in the New Hamburg, Ont., thrift shop his organization runs.
At one point, the auction had to be stopped and restarted because someone bid $125,000 in bad faith.
“There weren’t any new bids in the last days, and we are fine with that,” Cober Bauman said. “This is still a remarkable outcome when we consider the original appraised value of around $16,000.”
Lewis, who lived in poverty for most of her life, sold her paintings from her home near Digby, N.S., for as little as $2 and $3. She died in 1970, but her paintings have since sold for more than $20,000. Two of her works were ordered by the White House during Richard Nixon’s presidency after Lewis achieved widespread attention.
The Canadian artist has also been the subject of a biopic starring Oscar-nominated actors Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins.
Hawkins is getting critical acclaim for her portrayal of Lewis, who persevered through juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, poverty and ill treatment from her loved ones.
The film, which is set in Nova Scotia and was filmed in Newfoundland, has also received critical acclaim at various festivals around the world and captured the Super Channel People’s Choice award at the Vancouver International Film Festival. It became a blockbuster in the East Coast, with people lining up around the block at some theatres when it was released last month.
Lewis’s painting found in New Hamburg was displayed at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which highlighted the artist’s works to coincide with the film’s premiere.
The painting was then shipped back to Ontario for it to be auctioned, Cober Bauman said, adding that it was sold to a man in Calgary who wishes to remain anonymous.
Cober Bauman said the proceeds will further his organization’s relief work in areas such as Nigeria and South Sudan, where they are trying to alleviate the effects of famine.
He said the famine particularly in Nigeria is caused by violence and his organization is working with women in the area through peace-building programs.
“(Lewis) was a woman who faced a lot of adversity. … She really still rose above that and lived a very dignified life – and a life where she gave back and contributed incredibly,” he said.
“I am going to remember from this painting and the auction the connection between that choice to live a contributing, dignified life that Maud Lewis made and many of the women we work with internationally.”