Lewis Evans was born in Birmingham, 1878, the second eldest in a family of eleven children. At the age of nine, Lewis contracted poliomyelitis (polio) a muscle wasting illness. His lower body paralysed, he was for the rest of his life dependent on a bath chair, (similar to a wheel chair) for movement.
Owing to his illness and the unsuitability of the English climate, his parents Edward and Kate Evans decided to immigrate to New Zealand when Lewis was sixteen: his family settled in a small bungalow at 48 Carnell Street, Napier. Lewis turned to studying art, international politics, classics and military history. A keen observer of nature, its movement, shadow, form and colour, Lewis decided to depict what he saw, using the medium of watercolor and oil.
Essentially self-taught, art was an uphill struggle for Lewis. Due to financial restraints, he was unable to afford the luxury of a teacher or art school, but most particularly the implements required to paint. Regardless of this, he persevered constantly producing works to sell. For artistic critique, Lewis would send some of his sketches to his English uncle, Bernard Evans, founder of the London Society of Artists, who in turn would set out a course of studies through literature, for him to pursue.
Restricted in movement, Lewis was wholly dependent on others for getting around. Pushed to predetermined locations by his father, he
became a well-known figure seated in his bath chair, accompanied by easel and canvas, painting and sketching. For several years his
friend and burgeoning artist, Thomas Arthur (T.A.) McCormack was a constant companion as they roamed the local wetlands and beaches experimenting with watercolour landscapes.
Lewis died on 8 July 1941 and is buried in the Napier Cemetery. An exhibition was subsequently held at the National Centre for Paralysis at La Jolla in California to honour him and his life’s work. Regardless of his health and personal battles, Lewis Evans won widespread local and national acclaim as a watercolour artist and is attributed to “having had the ingenuousness of a naïve artist.”
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