Following 16 several years, couple learns cherished Maud Lewis painting is possible a fraud

A Halifax few is warning artwork fans to be careful just after studying their treasured Maud Lewis painting is very likely a fraud. 

John and Sue Corbett bought Untitled: Seagulls and Lighthouses in an on the internet auction held by Calgary’s Levis Auctions in 2005. Levis mentioned the piece came from a personal selection on Vancouver Island.

It was mentioned as a Maud Lewis authentic.

The backstory was that the artist had been showcased in a 1965 CBC documentary, prompting the Vancouver collector to produce to her and buy two paintings. The next painting was bought at the very same auction, to an unidentified customer. 

The Corbetts paid a lot more than $5,000 for their portray. Each grew up in Nova Scotia and had very long admired Lewis’s perform.

This Maud Lewis painting was uncovered by volunteers at a thrift keep in New Hamburg, Ont. It is identified as Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fisherman, and is related to the Corbetts’ painting. (Ken Ogasawara/MCC Photograph)


“I like the design, I like the imagery she provides. It is really generally Nova Scotian in the animals she provides, the drinking water, strategies she presents,” Sue Corbett told CBC Information. 

“At that time we had been dwelling in Ontario and we liked to exhibit off Nova Scotia,” her partner, John, said. 

‘Absolutely devastated’

As the retired few began legacy setting up, they made a decision to get the function appraised this summer season. Other individuals like it have sold for up to $20,000, and some freshly observed Lewis works in Britain lately fetched $60,000 at auction. 

But when they introduced their Lewis to Halifax appraiser Ian Muncaster of Zwicker’s Artwork Gallery, he explained to them it was likely a fake.  

“Absolutely devastated,” Sue Corbett said of her response. “Shocked.”

The two are not artwork collectors and by no means doubted the do the job was genuine, until Muncaster forged an specialist eye on it. 

“He named a couple of items,” John Corbett mentioned. “He talked about the way the horizon was accomplished was atypical from his exposure to it. He explained the seagulls, usually their legs are black — these aren’t. The homes, the roofs tended to be a solid color and right here they have a tendency to be blended. Maybe a little something carried out in a hurry so they did not rather paint it fully.”

The rocks and waves have been off, way too, and so was the signature. 

John and Sue Corbett have saved the perform, but see it as a curio now. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

“We get Maud Lewis paintings introduced in weekly, possibly in some cases two or 3 a 7 days,” Muncaster informed CBC. “And I looked at it and I reported, ‘I think there’s something not suitable.'”

He’s been appraising artwork for 50 years. An appraisal document is not a certification of authenticity, but he declines to appraise operates that show signs of fraud — like the a single bought by the Corbetts.

That meant their portray went from a valuation in the hundreds to worthless. 

Muncaster ran the portray by Lance Woolaver, the author of various publications about Lewis, and Alan Deacon, a collector of her is effective. Both noticed induce for worry.

The Corbett portray is similar to a acknowledged Lewis portray, Portrait of Eddie Barnes and Ed Murphy, Lobster Fisherman, which offered for $45,000 in 2017. 

“She experienced a excellent perception of color, of composition, and they really are very charming,” Muncaster said of the reliable paintings. “Most of the forgeries, you can just notify they’re unique.”

Lewis failed to acquire artwork materials, but worked with donated paint, so her art mixes inside paints with exterior paints, supplying them an uneven sheen. She commonly painted on outdated beaverboard, a style of drywall made use of in structures. The Corbetts’ painting is on beaverboard, but it also has an even sheen. 

Ian Muncaster appears to be at an reliable Maud Lewis painting that was despatched to Zwicker’s Art Gallery for framing. (Jon Tattrie/CBC)

He contrasted that with an genuine Lewis portray, in for framing. 

“This portray has all the proper factors. It really is bought a fantastic signature, the color is appropriate, you can see in which Maud sketches in pencil beneath, and the finish is sort of variegated. It really is enamel and shiny in some spots and very flat in some others.”

In her pre-fame decades, Lewis often sold paintings to neighbours who preferred to brighten up a nursery, or who just preferred to put some revenue in her pockets. She signed her paintings in distinctive strategies and sometimes utilised a marker that can fade. 

“Maud informed 1 of her friends several years ago that she thinks she paints a single a day,” Muncaster said. “Now, she painted through the 40s, 50s, and 60s, so it’d be about 300 a yr, above 3,000 a ten years. So it would be somewhere around 10,000, at minimum.”

Fraudsters have been busy considering the fact that her demise in 1970. He thinks there are a lot more than 1,000 bogus Lewis paintings in circulation. It’s authorized to copy a painting, but a criminal offense to test to market the copy as an original. 

Auction property shredded documents

Levis Auctions destroys its paperwork following a 10 years, so the Lewis files are long gone.

Doug Levis started Levis Auctions and bought the painting to the Corbetts.  He reported a female from Vancouver Island contacted him in 2005 about providing two Maud Lewises she experienced bought from the artist in the 1960s. 

“I had no cause to disbelieve her story,” he said.

Levis, who is now retired, reported as the price ranges for Lewis’s art have risen, so have the amount of “questionable” paintings surfacing. Recently, another person introduced in 4 paintings attributed to Lewis. The organization despatched individuals for expert appraisal, which forged question on their authenticity, so Levis did not auction them.  

He explained that’s how Levis handles all Lewis paintings now. 

They informed the Corbetts they do offer you refunds, but within 14 times of purchase. 

“I think our obligations for the sale have extensive due to the fact passed. I am sorry that following all these decades you have found it to be something other than what you thought you had obtained,” the auction corporation wrote to the Corbetts.

“I hope that you had been ready to get pleasure from it in the 16 several years you had it and continue on to even now discover some pleasure in it.”

The Corbetts do not uncover considerably pleasure in it these days. John phone calls it a “curio,” kept as a warning to other individuals. Sue said their younger grandson painted her a copy of a Maud Lewis a number of years in the past and that holds more worth for them than the pretend. 

The artist in home: Maud Lewis poses with one of her paintings in front of her property. (Art Gallery of Nova Scotia)

They never blame Levis, and never assume the auctioneer was in on the potential fraud. They urged other newbie collectors to be sceptical, specially of paintings proclaiming to be by Maud Lewis. 

“I would propose they get it authenticated. There is a certification of authenticity. It’s not contrary to baseball cards — they all arrive with a certification of authenticity,” John claimed. 

Muncaster echoed that sentiment. He suspects one fraudster in Nova Scotia has personally established much more than 1,000 phony Lewises, which are generally passed off as originals. 

He said that means except if you had been in the room with her when she painted it, opportunity buyers must be cautious just before shelling out hundreds of dollars on a Maud Lewis.