During the last five years of her life, a steady stream of locals and tourists—intrigued by Lewis’s paintings, as well as her buoyant spirit and reclusive lifestyle—came knocking at the door of the home she shared with her husband, fish peddler Everett. They bought Lewis’s colorful scenes of Nova Scotia life for five dollars a pop. Recently, 47 years after Lewis’s death, her celebrity—and, in step, the prices of her paintings—have swelled. This May, one of her works, discovered in a thrift shop, sold for over $45,000 at auction.
Lewis was born in 1903 in the small, seaside town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. At a young age, she was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis that left her with a pained and crooked gait. Confined largely to her parents’ home, she began to draw. “I used to paint with Crayolas a lot. Kind of practicing up, I suppose,” Lewis laughs in the 1965 documentary.