Two paintings by a beloved Nova Scotia folk artist have vanished. Can they have gone far?

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One day in the early 1950s, Van Davis Odel removed Highway 1 in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, proving an accidental purchase. A Manhattan businessman was driving around with his two friends in search of crafts and antiques. He was fascinated by the black sign that says “Sales of Paintings” next to a small white hut.

Inside, a woman with knotty hands and a sweet attitude showed her a picture of a cheerful and fascinating scene, such as a row of kittens, a pair of cows with long eyelashes, and a sled pulled by a winding horse in the countryside. rice field. The artist is Maud Lewis, who is now considered one of Canada’s greatest folk painters. But that day, Odel paid just $ 5 each for several pieces and drove to the cottage where she spent the summer in Smith’s Cove for about 10 minutes.

Seagull Cottage is one of 27 rustic bungalows with panoramic views of the Bay of Fundy and was built on the same driveway as the Victorian hotel Harbor View Inn. The pool, dining room and dance pavilion cater to energetic vacationers fleeing the summer. The heat of New York and Boston.

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Odel hung two paintings on each side of the bedroom window. One is a spring cow and the other is a winter cow, which has remained in a wooden frame for over 60 years. Then, one day from September 2020 to May 2021, both disappeared. Nothing else was taken. The third Lewis painting of the cow was hung on another wall in the bedroom.

Lewis’s art, with the theme of optimism and overcoming difficulties, has steadily increased in value. She was recognized nationally just a few years before her death in the 1970s, but by the mid-1990s, the exhibition at the Nova Scotia art gallery spurred her work to sell in the thousands. rice field. 2016, biography Modi, Starring Sally Hawkins as Lewis and Ethan Hawke as her concise husband Everett, aroused international interest in Lewis’ work and pushed prices up to the five-digit range. (One character in the movie, the benevolent American art lover, is a partially Odel-based composition.) Odel’s stolen paintings were each considered worth about $ 20,000. rice field. But in November, Lewis’s paintings sold for $ 67,250. This is one of her most popular works to date.

Salamil Roy, Chief Curator of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario, said: Recently, I closed the exhibition of Lewis’s tour.

The stolen picture is similar to the one depicted here: (left) A team of spring cows in the 1960s. And (right) Oxen’s team in the winter of the 1960s (Courtesy of Nova Scotia’s Art Gallery / CFFI Ventures Inc. Collection Collected by John Lisley; Courtesy of Nova Scotia’s Art Gallery / Private Collection)

The Seagull Cottage is now owned by Odel’s daughter Lynn, but the first to notice the exposed walls of her bedroom was a woman who had rented the property for years. There were no signs of intrusion, so she called Darence Nair, the caretaker who was the former owner of Harbor View Inn in nearby Digby. Did he remove them for storage?

The snare didn’t do that, and confirmed with a local sweeper who had been caring for seagulls and nearby cottages for years. They didn’t see anything suspicious either. Also, there were no residents in the cottage next door. “Who would do that in this small community?” Ask the snare. “Unfortunately, there is nothing to move on. Who knows why, what, who knows?”

His confusion is shared throughout the Smiths Cove area, and many of the long-standing seasonal visitors from the United States are named locals. Some have known each other for generations and are proud of the connection between Lewis and her story of Hard Scrabble. A friend of Lynn Odel, now facing her health problems at the age of 76, said her paintings linked her to Nova Scotia’s summer memories when she learned to swim and sail. say.

But under the turmoil is the undercurrent of suspicion. Outside of Smith’s Cove, locals point out that few people notice that the paintings are adorned in the cottage. In addition, it seems unlikely that a thief understands the difficulty of selling stolen artwork and trekking to the Fundy coast for $ 20,000. Lewis’s work adds value, but the risks outweigh the potential rewards.

“These will not be put up for auction,” said Ray Kronin, author of a book about Lewis and former CEO of Nova Scotia State Museum. “Any art dealer will see them and immediately call the police.”

Honey Shields is a longtime friend of Lynn Odell, who has owned a cottage in Smith’s Cove for 31 years. A New Yorker companion, she helps Odel’s work. It’s painful for Shield to think that someone in the community is involved in the theft, but she admits that the outlook has transcended people’s hearts. “I trust everyone there,” she says. “I hope they catch them, and I hope it’s not the one we know.”

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However, RCMP does not appear to be over-focused on the local area. Their investigation would have included confirmation with their neighbors, says spokesman Cpl. Kris Marshall, but in December they sought hints from the general public and recently followed up on online auctions and markets where similar Lewis works are on sale. Still, Marshall admits that the motive for the theft may not be monetary. “In this part of the world, Maud Lewis’s paintings are something that someone might want to leave behind because of their cultural importance,” he observes. “It is very likely that the person who took them will want to keep them.”

For now, that might be easy. Greg Metcalf, the current co-owner of Harbor View Inn, was undoubtedly quiet in Smith’s Cove’s recent summer due to pandemic restrictions, leaving eye and ear shortages and favoring thieves. It states. “One day they will appear in someone’s house,” he predicts. “Someone will die, and there will be these two Maud Lewis paintings in inheritance.”


This article was printed in the April 2022 issue. McLeans A magazine entitled “The Mod Squad Incident”. Subscribe to the monthly magazine here.

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1 COMMENT

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