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Rare Maud Lewis paintings up for auction online, valued at $35,000

Three rare Maud Lewis paintings are up for auction online today, estimated to be worth tens of thousands of dollars each.

Sarah Jones, the curator and co-founder of Jones Auction House in Saint John, N.B., said there has been “quite a bit of interest from within Atlantic Canada" but also "from California, and out west, and from overseas.”

“You know, in an auction you never know what will transpire in the final moments," she said.

For decades, the three paintings were hidden in a New York home until the collector who unearthed them reached out to Jones Auction House and authenticator Alan Deacon in Nova Scotia to ask whether the paintings were real.

“We remember getting the email. It was just astonishing to see (the paintings),” Jones said.

Jones Auction House did its own research and documentation on the pieces but also enlisted a team. Deacon, a well-known Lewis expert, can spot a fake but confirmed the paintings were not only real but were from the artist's early work in the 1940s.

“And it’s quite rare to get early works by Maud Lewis,” said Deacon. “Most of the paintings we see coming to market are really works probably in the last five or six years of her life.”

Lewis had debilitating arthritis and sold her work from her tiny house in Marshalltown, N.S. She painted through pain and poverty and died in 1970.

Her life was the basis for a movie a few years ago, which helped grow appreciation for her work.

In 2016, one of her paintings sold at an auction for $350,000.

Jones points out how in the in the public collection, there are very few works from this time period.

“It’s so important to have early works because it shows her exploration of her ideas and her development at an artist,” Jones said.

Sunday’s online auction estimates the value of each piece at between $25,000 and $35,000.The bidding closes at 6 p.m. Atlantic time.

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