I met an impressive fellow painter recently.

Actually, I saw a movie about her life, but the impression that she left on me was strong enough to make it feel like an encounter. Her name was Maud Lewis, and she lived near the village of Digby, in Nova Scotia.

The movie, “Maudie”, tells the story of her life, an uncommonly difficult but inspiring life.

Difficult because Maud suffered of rheumatoïod arthritis, a condition that left her progressively more crippled as she aged. And hard, because she was poor.

But she loved to paint. And though Maud Lewis never received any formal training in art, she had imagination, sensitivity to the world around her and a great determination to let that be. Not an easy feat for an invalid woman living in a rural area at the time. Her drive was not for recognition; it was more of a deep, vital need to paint the world as she saw it and to surround herself by her own definition of life and it’s beauty.

Unexpectedly, she did become a well-known folk artist, selling her small paintings, mostly 8 x 10 inches, to local people and passers by, at an average price of 3$. Her art is bold in color and playful in composition, it is genuine in its evocation of her world. And it has emotional stamina, just like she did.

But what touched me the most about Maud Lewis was the radiance emanating from her smile, and her capacity to extract joy from a life that others might have found despairing. That’s an impressive lesson in resilience and love.

Maud Lewis, Image from the documentary”A World Without Shadows” by Diane Beaudry, National Film Board of Canada.