Painted Worlds

The Art of Maud Lewis, A Critical Perspective

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Pub Date 01 May 2022 | Archive Date 10 Jun 2022

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Description


A full-colour, narrative and illustrated critical art history of the works of iconic Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis.

“Rather than thinking of Maud Lewis as an artist who was untrained, unskilled, and worked in total isolation, we ought to reframe her as an artist who, through her observation of landscape and culture, created composite images of what inspired her.”

Upon seeing the title of this work, you could be forgiven for asking, “Another book about Maud Lewis? Is there anything left to say, or is this just one more voice laying claim to her story and legacy?” After all, Lewis’s work has been marketed and co-opted as part of the larger folk identity in Nova Scotia for decades. But something has been missing from that discourse all these years.
In Painted Worlds, curator and art historian Dr. Laurie Dalton explores what always seems to be lacking in the storytelling and mythmaking surrounding Maud Lewis: she situates Lewis’s work within a wider context of art history. Discussions of technique, intent, and colour theory permeate these pages. Instead of reducing Lewis to her cute black cats and whimsical rural scenes, Dalton takes us on a deep dive of the artist’s oeuvre, through the lens of critical art history inquiry. That is, Dalton does not simply regard the paintings as ethnographic objects of rural Nova Scotia, but as serious works of art to be carefully examined. Includes dozens of full-colour images.

Dr. Laurie Dalton is the director/curator of the Acadia University Art Gallery and an adjunct professor in the Department of History & Classics. Her research interests lie in Canadian visual culture and museum and exhibition history, in particular how “meaning” is a process of display, didactics, and audience exchange. She lives in Nova Scotia.


A full-colour, narrative and illustrated critical art history of the works of iconic Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis.

“Rather than thinking of Maud Lewis as an artist who was untrained, unskilled, and...


Advance Praise

“[Reading Painted Worlds] is seeing Lewis for the artist she always was, at last—and you need never have taken an art history class to get the lesson.”
–The Coast

“[Reading Painted Worlds] is seeing Lewis for the artist she always was, at last—and you need never have taken an art history class to get the lesson.”
–The Coast


Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781774710586
PRICE $32.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

I want to thank NetGalley and Nimbus Publishing for the ARC of a scholarly study of Maud Lewis's paintings and its gorgeous, colourful illustrations. This is a knowledgeable examination of her artwork, rather than a book focusing on her impoverished life in rural Nova Scotia and her painful physical disabilities.

The author, Dr. Laurie Dalton, is a professor of art history in the Department of History and Classics at Acadia University. She is also the Director and Curator of its art gallery. The book gives a new critical perspective on the paintings of Maud Lewis. Her paintings have been dismissed as folk art by a quaint, naive, impoverished craftsperson churning out curiosities as souvenirs, rather than as an important figure in the general history of art. To dismiss her paintings as produced for the tourist market and to minimize them as repetitive and derivative does not diminish their role as artworks.

When Digby Pines hotel displayed a number of paintings in 1970, there were two reactions. A frequent response was, "My child could paint that!" Other viewers were transfixed on viewing, wanting to see the world through Maud Lewis's eyes. Recent articles online are still drawing such divisive comments.

A lengthy CBC article published on May 6, 2022, quotes Laurie Dalton's assessment of her view that in technique, subjects, and use of colour, Maud's artwork is reflected in the paintings of well-known
artists. On examination, they should be placed in the context of genuine works of art.

The same article goes on to discuss that in her lifetime, her paintings sold for $2 to $5. Her miserly husband hid most of the proceedings from these paintings. At the time of the May 6 article, one of her paintings had set a record at $67,250. An art dealer comments that her rarer paintings could reach the $100,000 mark in the coming years. Only one week later, one was sold for $350,000! It had originally been traded for a grilled cheese sandwich.

The 2016 Maudie, made the artist known to a much wider audience, but this does not explain that it was not until 2022 that their sales skyrocket in price. There has been mentioned that some owners love their paintings so much that they refuse to part with them for any amount of money.

I felt this was a literate, erudite, rational and important critique of Maud Lewis's paintings, and I will be ordering a copy of this beautifully illustrated book.

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Painted worlds is a charmingly inspirational biography of Maud Lewis, including her life and art in Nova Scotia. This book is a perfect gift or coffee table book for lovers of Canadian art.

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