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This Irish film tells the fascinating story of a tiny folk-artist called Maud

Maud Lewis is a folk art hero in her home country of Canada.

ArtGalleryNovaScotia / YouTube

A NEW IRISH film will tell the story of Maud Lewis, a woman who became one of Canada’s best folk artists – and who painted her entire house with bright, colourful scenes.

The film, directed by Aisling Walsh – who also directed Song For A Raggy Boy – sees Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) play Maud Lewis and Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) as her husband Everett Lewis. It’s an Irish-Canadian co-production, part financed by the Irish Film Board.

Maud Lewis was not a trained artist, but her work resonated with people in a big way. She had severe rheumatoid arthritis, which led to some bullying when she was young. But she soon discovered her love of art, and was able to express herself through bright, positive paintings for her whole life.

It was through painting that Lewis brought in money for herself and her husband Everett, who she married when she was 30. Initially, she was hired to be his housekeeper, but she wanted their relationship to be more official.

maudie CBC CBC

The pair spent their lives in a small house in Marshalltown that had no plumbing or electricity. Maud painted flowers all over the inside and outside of the house – the stairs, the walls, and the furniture.

She lived in the house until she died in 1970. In the documentary Maud Lewis: A World Without Shadows, her husband said that Maudie “painted all winter, that’s all what she done, course she done her cookin’ too”.

Lewis never took a painting lesson or, says the documentary, saw a work of art in real-life, being “cut off from everything – except what was inside her”. She first came to national attention in 1965, when the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) interviewed her at home.

Her paintings showed life in the small Nova Scotia town she lived in – with many winter scenes, images of children at play, and the landscape as it changed throughout the seasons.

Her husband, who was a labourer and nightwatchman, was killed during an attempted burglary at the couple’s house in 1979. In the film, he’s depicted as a man who at first didn’t quite understand why his wife was so driven to paint on the walls of their tiny house.

Their home was totally restored by conservators, who faced quite a large task – much of the inside of the home was in bad condition. It’s now at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Sally Hawkins fan / YouTube

Walsh’s film is currently showing at festivals, and reviews have slowly been coming in.

The Guardian said: “While there are some third-act twists and minor flashes of catharsis, Aisling Walsh’s film stays true to its understated ethos.”

Why bother saying anything grand when you can focus on what’s in the frame?

CBC sent an art expert to the premiere of the film at the festival TIFF, who said of Lewis’s painting style:

She had lost almost all mobility in her painting hand by 1964. So she had to use her left hand to be like the motor. She would use her left hand to guide the motion of the paint. The work was painstakingly difficult for her to produce.
The film does a very good job, I think, of presenting to people who are uninformed, just how challenging and difficult her life was.

Maudie is being shown this month at the International Film Festival Berlinale, alongside a number of other Irish films, including Return to Montauk, Atlantic and the short The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy.

It will also be shown at the Audi Dublin International Film Festival on Thursday evening at its opening gala.


Read: Meet the man championing musicians who were captured by the Nazis>

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