Artist Page 47

Great Canadian Art & Artists

CW (Charles William) Jefferys - 1869-1951

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous summary of the best of CW Jefferys: rugged Canadian landscape, rugged Canadians, wonderfully accoutered figures with real personalities in a superior artistic presentation that has wormed its way into the psyche of countless generations of Canadians.

That is what it looked like; that is exactly the way it happened. CW Jefferys said it, and we believe him...

The Fab Five of Canadian Art

CW Jefferys was one of five fabulous artists (AH Hider, JD Kelly, Arthur Heming, Owen Staples) who excelled at painting wonderfully evocative artistic masterpieces of Canadian historical events.

And far from only being gobbers of paint on paper, as the mood takes them, like modern artists - the Fab Five were highly educated and informed on the intellectual history and heritage of Canada.

They painted from heavily researched knowledge, unlike most modern artists who paint something or other - its for you to figure out what - whenever the mood takes them, this way or that, or whatever...

Mackenzie Reaches the Pacific, 1793 (detail) - CW Jefferys

Orig. print - Image Size - 45 x 75 cm
Found - Burlington, ON

Alexander Mackenzie is credited as the first white man to cross the northern part of the North American continent, and discover the Pacific Ocean, years before the Americans Lewis and Clark did it further south. (Of course the Spaniard Balboa had done it across the narrow neck of Central America in 1513.)
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005

Left a fabulous gouache variation of the finally published scene above, which displays all CW's talents at composition, capturing the rugged beauty of Canada, and his famous depictions of Canadians of all kinds as robust healthy characters, convincing us absolutely that without tough Scots like Mackenzie, and his men, Canada could never have prospered or been developed. The Canada of today was built on their sense of adventure and enterprise, in promoting the fur trade relationship with Indians from coast to coast.

CW, like JD Kelly and other historical artists, would produce originals in gouache left, then alter elements to suit clients or changing artistic tastes.

CW knew that not all Canadian history was a rosy romp between the races, that contact between French and English, whites and Indians often degenerated into fights for survival, for both communities.

He painted an unforgettable burning of the Parliament Buildings in Montreal in 1849 by an English mob angry that the government had decided to compensate French people whose property had been damaged in the recent rebellions of French insurgents against the autocratic English ruling classes in Quebec.

CW's depiction of the terror of the Iroquois attacks near Lachine in 1641, when scores of French settlers were killed, leaves little to the imagination, and certainly captures the reality of this side of the story in stark and unforgettable detail.

There is something horrific going on in every part of the panel.

CW's command of the entire surface of the panel, putting something of interest into receding planes of the canvas, gives one a terrific sense of depth and perspective that only the best artists will attempt, let alone succeed at.

Don't look for this sign of superior artistry in a Riopelle... What you get with him, in the lower right hand corner of his works, is exactly what you'll get everywhere else on his canvases: same depth, same interest, same colours, same pattern... Ugghh... No wonder even he gave up trying to give his art titles, hoping the buyer would come up with his own, since he had created so many similar pieces he had run out of names long ago...

Charles William Jefferys (1869 –1951) was a Canadian painter, illustrator, author, and teacher, best known as an artist of historical paintings.

Born in England, Jefferys arrived in Toronto, Ontario (after living in Philadelphia and Hamilton, Ontario) with his family around 1880.

After attending school, he apprenticed with the Toronto Lithography Company from 1885 to 1890. From 1889 to 1892 he worked for the Toronto Globe as an illustrator and artist.

From 1893 to 1901, he worked for the New York Herald.

Returning to Toronto, he became a magazine and book illustrator.

Along with other artists, he co-founded the Graphic Arts Club (later named the Canadian Society of Graphic Art), which by the 1940s became the primary artists' group in Canada.

As well, from 1912 to 1939 he taught painting and drawing in the Department of Architecture at the University of Toronto.

During World War I he was commissioned by the Canadian War Records department to paint soldiers training at Camp Petawawa and Niagara.

Left in the yard of the family home, in 1924, CW's children pose behind their house, that today has been surrounded by concrete and the nonstop roar of traffic.
























Two classic Jefferys artistic highlights:
his exciting colourful tableaux from Canadian history, like the Acadians being informed by the British, in 1755, that they will be transported from their homelands in today's Nova Scotia, to far-off Louisiana, and one of his famous, black and white sketches showing detailed portrayals of Canadian heritage artefacts of people, places, and events from Canadian history.























: Champlain on the Ottawa, 1613, holding an astrolabe he lost, and which was found in the 1930s; above habitants paying seigneurial dues.

: rebels marching on (York) Toronto in 1837 and Red River carts with CW's historical notations in his famous illustrative books The Picture Gallery of Canadian History which immortalized, visually and educationally, the people, places, and events of Canadian history and heritage for countless generation of Canadians of all ages.















Many images that CW drew or painted - like the rebels - are burned inerasably into the psyche of countless Canadians from their earliest childhood days on, when public school teachers taught Canadian history with them, to their days as adults, visiting museums with their own children, and encountering CW's images there.

Right: CW portrays what can rightfully be called Canada's first permanent buildings, which Champlain constructed near Annapolis Royal, in Nova Scotia, in 1605.

Parks Canada has rebuilt the original habitation on the same site, which today is off the beaten path up a lengthy dead end road east of Granville Ferry, Nova Scotia.

The site is graced by a marvellous bust of Champlain by Louis-Philippe Hébert, a contemporary of CW Jefferys, who created some of Canada's finest busts and public monuments in bronze in Victorian and Edwardian Canada.

In 1608 Champlain changed locations drastically, taking his new group of settlers further to the north and west, deep into the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and founding Quebec.




Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

The home of CW Jefferys, one of the Fab Five of Canada's celebrated historical artists of the 20th century, is a classic Ontario brick central gable house that alone - of its neighbours - escaped the bulldozer, the patron saint of the Toronto Urban Planning Council.

The classic Ontario central gable house evolved from the basic log cabin of old. CW's house is really only a traditional log house in brick.

Log cabins were rectangular, had gable ends, under the slope of the roof, and chimneys ran up the end walls. Doorways were on the long side.

Somewhere, someone decided he was tired of shoveling snow off the porch and opted to cover the door with a central gable, to act as a roof over the entrance, to minimize the fall of rain and snow and keep the door from rotting out. And the Ontario central gable house was born.

The style caught on like wildfire, and soon centre gable houses were built in frame, stone, and brick versions.

The centre gable provided another benefit; you could put in a window and provide light for the attic.

This home was the fountainhead of many of Canada's best known paintings and historical artworks.

Home of CW Jefferys, Toronto, Ontario - c 1875
Orig. house - Built c 1875
Found - Toronto, ON
Once quietly nestled on the northern slopes of Hogg's Hollow, it is today, dwarfed by concrete walls of apartments and just meters below the incessant roar of the 401 super highway.