Conservation of Painted House earns AGNS a heritage award

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on February 28, 2014

The Maud Lewis memorial in Marshalltown

Karla Kelly

The Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia has recognized the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for its conservation of Maud Lewis’ painted house.

The Heritage Trust awarded the staff and the gallery one of its Built Heritage Awards—these annual awards “call attention to excellence in the conservation of our province’s built heritage” and “recognize and honour outstanding individuals, groups, companies and government departments who have preserved and rehabilitated a part our built heritage.”

A press release from the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia says the conservation of Maud Lewis’ house is “a story of triumph over difficulty”.

Lewis was Canada's best-known folk artist, best known for her small paintings on board.

However the tiny one-room house she shared with her husband Everett for 32 years is perhaps her greatest work.

“She decorated every available surface, inside and out, from bread boxes and trays to the walls, windows and doors, making the house come alive with her imagination and the touch of her brush,” reads the AGNS announcement. “It had no electricity or running water, but it became her first canvas for expression during her married life.”

After Maud's death in 1970 and Everett's in 1979, the Painted House, as it became known in the community, was left unmaintained.

In 1984 the government of Nova Scotia bought the house and placed it in the care of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. 

In 1996, after the structure was moved to Halifax, the painstaking conservation and restoration of the decorative images on and inside the house began and continued for two years.

Specialists conserved metal objects, hand-painted wallpaper, polychrome wood, linoleum, furniture and painted oil-cloth. It became the largest conservation project ever carried out at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

The fully restored Painted House is now on permanent display in Halifax, the most-visited part of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.  A book for visitor comments records daily the deep emotional response people have to the artist, her home and her amazing story of triumph over adversity.

Maud Lewis' work can be seen at both locations of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax and Yarmouth.

The restored Painted House is now an integral part of the Maud Lewis Gallery in Halifax.

Visitors can also see an exhibition of greeting cards by the artist. In Yarmouth, Maud Lewis Homecoming will be on view beginning in April. At Marshalltown, near Digby, a memorial to Maud Lewis, rededicated in September 2013, sits on the original site of the Painted House.

An interactive tour of the Maud Lewis restoration project can be seen on the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia website at,  and a two-minute video appears at