Directed by Aisling Walsh, ‘Maudie’ is a drama biopic about the life and hardships of famous folk artist Maud Lewis. Born with birth deformities, Maud suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, with her condition rapidly deteriorating with age. When she moves in as a housekeeper with a poor fish seller, Everett, she makes colors her best friends and starts painting every corner of the house. She soon finds paper and canvas for her work and starts selling her art at meagre prices.
Based on the real-life of Maud Lewis, who got married to Everett after a few weeks and started selling her paintings, this biopic takes some liberties to dramatize what is known about her life. Maud and Everett spent their life in poverty, even if Maud was born in a more well-off household, but was left to fend for herself after her parents died. She was well-loved and respected but wasn’t able to make much money while she was still alive. The film, apart from discussing her backstory, also touches upon the topics of her husband and daughter. But there are mostly vague accounts of what happened to them in real life.
Maud Lewis’ Daughter Catherine Crosby Remained Absent from Her Life
Not much is shown in the film about Maud’s daughter since she was born much before Maud met Everett. From those who have compiled accounts of her life from research, it was found that when Maud was young and still living with her parents, she fell for a local man called Emery Gordon Allen. According to a biography about Maud’s life, written by Maud Lewis The Heart on the Door,’he soon got pregnant out of wedlock, which was very scandalous for a small town, Yarmouth, in Nova Scotia, and gave birth to a girl. Some accounts suggest that Maud was told her child was born with deformities and died right after birth. These stories were apparently made up by her brother, Charles Dowley, who wanted to give the girl up for adoption since he didn’t think Maud could take care of her.
Maud then reportedly lived her life thinking she didn’t have a child, and the baby girl was adopted by Alvin Alexander Crosby and Mary E Porter. The girl was named Catherine Maud Dowley initially after Maud’s middle name but was called Catherine Crosby when she got adopted. Catherine lived a good life with her adoptive parents but, later in her years, learned that her biological mother was Maud, who was still alive and lived nearby. She tried approaching Maud, who dismissed Katherine, stating that she had given birth to a son who died instantly and that she didn’t have any relation to Catherine. Not much is known about whether Maud actually knew Catherine was her daughter, but even when Catherine attempted to contact her later through letters, she did not respond.
In the film, this situation is shown differently when Everett finds out the whereabouts of Maud’s daughter, whose existence she was sure about, and takes Maud to her. In real life, Everett wasn’t known to be so caring and affectionate, and there is no account of him trying to reunite mother and daughter this way. Years after Maud had passed away in 1970, her granddaughter and Katherine’s daughter, Marsha Benoit, tried to relive their connection, acknowledging how in awe of her grandmother’s work she was even if she had never met her in real life.
Her mother, Catherine told Marsha about Maud when she was 12, and before that, she thought Catherine’s adoptive parents were her real grandparents. Marsha admitted that her mother also got some of her grandmother’s talent since, according to her, Catherine was good with drawings. However, before Martha shared these experiences in 2019, Catherine sadly passed away in 2016 at the age of 77.
Maud’s Husband Everett Lewis Wasn’t As Nice In Real Life
Unlike the loving and caring Everett we see in the film, who encourages and helps out Maud at every step, it seems to be a dramatization since the real-life Everett was known to be an alcoholic, grumpy and mostly on bad behavior, probably owing to their financial condition. Some accounts even suggest that he was abusive to Maud, and women were told to stay away from a man like that. Everett discussed many accounts of how he actually met Maud, but the most popular opinion seems to be that he needed a wife and a housekeeper to stay in his tiny house and help with the work. Initially hesitant to hire Maud due to her disability, he is believed to have started seeing her value when her paintings started attracting people on the road and some of his clients.
The pair got married a few weeks after getting to know each other when Maud was in her mid-30s, and he was 44. Everett apparently even made her paint outdoors so people would see her working hard and take pity on her. But he knew Maud’s paintings could be a good source of income for their struggling household and surely decided to capitalize on that by encouraging Maud to paint. She herself was in love with the idea of painting beautiful things that probably depicted what a good life felt like to her, so she continued despite her deteriorating health till she finally died of pneumonia in 1970.
While she was still alive, Maud didn’t earn more than 8-10 dollars for her paintings which are now worth around $100,000, and she started out selling painted cards for just 50 cents. But after her death, Everett is known to have created a scene at the funeral in his drunken state, and while she got a lot of love from the community, no one really came to Everett’s funeral when he died in 1979. A person who claimed to have met Maud when she was selling paintings with Everett recounts how her mother slipped Maud an extra 2 dollars after buying her painting for 2 dollars initially, just so Maud could have some money Everett didn’t know about. Her mother later burnt the painting, which she sorely regrets now, seeing how much an original Maud Lewis is worth now.
Another account surfaced of Revered Stephen Wade, who allegedly visited Everett on the day he died. The Reverend knew of Everett’s reputation and that he was someone far beyond saving and had no respect for God. But that day, on New Year’s Day, he decided to pay the lonely man a visit and preach him something about God. Unexpectedly for the Reverend, Everett apparently took his advice really well and decided to submit to God and ask for his forgiveness. A few hours later, his lonely life is believed to have come to an end since he was murdered by a robber who broke into his house. Some accounts also suggest that the robber had heard of rumors that Everett had buried money somewhere on the property, which came from Maud’s earnings.
Interestingly, another person who claims to have met Everett after Maud’s death says that he sold his painting for 20 dollars. While they would have preferred to get an original painting by Maud, Everett had taken over the template and started trying to make paintings with similar patterns consistent with Maud’s usual style. He even included a figure of Maud in one of his paintings like she apparently used to do with him. For this person, both the paintings of the husband and wife now hang on the wall together years after their deaths.
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