The £22,000 cheese toast! Cafe owners who swapped toasted sandwiches for a painting by folk artist Maud Lewis in the 1970s are set for a bargain as the now prized artwork goes up for auction
- A Canadian couple swapped a sandwich for a painting by folk artist Maud Lewis after buying it from Briton John Kinnear, who was a regular at their Ontario cafe
- Irene Demas and her husband Tony have put up for sale the painting of a black truck
- Auctioneers believe the 50-year-old artwork will fetch over £20,000
- Maud Lewis died in 1970 at the age of 67 without ever reaping the fruits of her labor
A 50-year-old painting by an acclaimed folk Canadian artist that was given away in exchange for a grilled cheese sandwich could fetch over £20,000 at auction.
Irene Demas and her husband Tony traded food at their restaurant in Ontario for the work of talented people, including bakers, artisans, florists and artisans throughout the 1970s.
British couple John Kinnear and his wife Audrey began having regular lunches at the restaurant, having struck a deal with Irene and Tony that they would see them swap food over fort paintings of John and his friends.
Lewis’s work was among those chosen by Irene and, almost five decades later, it is expected to fetch over C$35,000 (£22,000) at auction.
A painting of a black lorry by renowned Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (pictured) is set to fetch more than C$35,000 at auction – it was offered to Irene and Tony Demas in exchange for grilled cheese sandwiches at their restaurant in London , Ontario in the 1970s
Bargain toastie: Irene Demas and husband Tony (pictured) received the board from British man John Kinnear, who was a regular at their cafe
Irene admits she would try to persuade John Kinnear to try other dishes and daily specials but he refused as he loved the grilled cheese sandwich.
She says that in the 1970s, everyone supported each other by sharing their talents within the local community.
The restorer revealed she had around six pieces to choose from from the day she spotted the now treasured painting and thought some had been created by a child due to the “bright colors and simple content”.
Irene said The temperature that John felt sorry for Maud, whom he had met in the province of Nova Scotia.
Maud Lewis (pictured) gained a cult following following her for her paintings of rural Nova Scotia and the one-room home she shared with husband Everett
He told her that the painter was “so poor that she didn’t have the right things to paint on”, having to use scrap wood and leftover paint from the fishermen’s boasts.
At the time, Irene was pregnant and decided to paint the truck instead of an animal because she thought it might hang in her son’s room.
Maud Lewis developed rheumatoid arthritis before her death in 1970 at age 67, but her artwork of rural Nova Scotia and the one-room home she shared with her husband Everett did not ceased to gain fame over the years.
“It’s just a shame that she didn’t live long enough to really reap the rewards of her art,” Irene said.
Irene and Tony were encouraged by their children to sell the artwork alongside letters between John Kinnear and Maud Lewis to fund trips.
Irene (pictured) said she and her husband Tony were asked to sell the artwork by their children who thought they should use the money earned to travel
Irene added: “My husband is 90 and I don’t think I’m 50 yet to hang on to it.”
The painting and the two letters will be auctioned on May 14, with Maud’s previous works selling for up to $65,000.
Ethan Miller, managing director and auctioneer at Miller & Miller Auctions in New Hamburg, said Radio Canada that the painting of the truck is a rare example of Maud’s work.
Ethan said: “Maud Lewis is the quintessential Canadian folk artist who has overcome personal physical limitations and all kinds of challenges in her life. She followed her passion and worked hard at it.
Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke brought attention to the impoverished artist in 2016 with the biopic Maudie.
“The market has gone crazy. It’s very unusual to see a category double and triple in value, and Maud Lewis’ paintings over the last five or even three years have easily doubled,” Ethan added.