Charles William “C.W.” Jefferys

Canada’s chronicler of the pioneer past.

“Every sincere picture, in addition to any art quality it may possess, has value as a record; a value not subject to the fluctuating standards of taste, or the caprice of fashion in art criticism.” ~ C.W. Jefferys

C.W. Jefferys - portraitBorn in Rochester, England, on August 25, 1869, Charles William Jefferys immigrated with his family to Philadelphia in 1875. He moved to Canada in 1878 and settled in Toronto three years later. He took evening classes at the Ontario School of Art and Design (now known as the Ontario College of Art and Design), had a five-year apprenticeship with the Toronto Lithographic Company, and received art lessons from accomplished Canadian painter George A. Reid. Under the instruction of C. M. Manly of the newly formed Toronto Art Students League, which he joined in 1888, Jefferys gained fundamentals and sound practices that were the foundation of his work throughout his life. He became Canada’s earliest and most influential historical illustrator and muralist.

When Jefferys first journeyed to the Prairie Provinces, the vastness and simple beauty of the landscape shattered his stifling commitment to detail, a commitment engendered by his career as a reportage illustrator and spare time spent capturing the rugged yet intricate details of the Ontario landscape. Jefferys’s first Prairie visit marked the beginning of a prolific and creative episode in his artistic life.

Christmas, Toronto, 1883. Note the Globe building in the background where C.W. worked.
Christmas, Toronto, 1883. Note the Globe building in the background where C.W. worked.

During the early 1900s Jefferys journeyed across Canada as an official illustrator for numerous Canadian magazines, playing a key role in recording the development of the West. When he first arrived in the southern regions of Saskatchewan and Alberta Jefferys was awestruck by the wide-open spaces and expansive skies. The subtle but complex palette of prairie colors offered artistic opportunities that rivaled other rocky outcroppings of the Canadian Shield.

His first Prairie painting, Afternoon in the Wheat Fields (1906), was completed during a visit to Portage-La-Prairie in northwestern Winnipeg, Manitoba. This work inspired his first large oil painting, entitled Wheat Stacks on the Prairie (1907), and both are examples of his exploration of this newly discovered and rich palette. Also from this period and in this vein are Western Sunlight (Last Mountain Lake) and A Storm on the Prairie (Allegro Maestoso), both from 1911. The latter two oils mark the artist’s maturation in this subject matter.

A pioneer in Canadian landscape painting, Jefferys inspired the Group of Seven and their followers through his support of native Canadian subject matter. He died in Toronto on October 8, 1951.

Source: Encyclopaedia of The Great Plains – http://plainshumanities.unl.edu/encyclopedia/doc/egp.art.038

More C.W. Jefferys illustrations:

"The Order of Good Cheer," was a French Colonial Order founded by Samuel de Champlain
“The Order of Good Cheer,” was a French Colonial Order founded by Samuel de Champlain
This illustration is titled "Logging Bee." It depicts the co-operative effort of pioneers helping one another. An anchor stone of Canadian culture.
This illustration is titled “Logging Bee.” It depicts the co-operative effort of pioneers helping one another. An anchor stone of Canadian culture.
Balls were very popular occasions in pioneer Canadian life, and people would come from miles to attend.
Balls were very popular occasions in pioneer Canadian life, and people would come from miles to attend.
Jeffreys was meticulous about detail, and it is thanks too him that we have an understanding of pioneer methods.
Jefferys was meticulous about detail, and it is thanks too him that we have an understanding of pioneer methods.
This is an illustration of the Battle of Batoche, part of the Metis uprising in what is now Manitoba.
This is an illustration of the Battle of Batoche, part of the Metis uprising in what is now Manitoba.

There are so many more works of genius by this largely forgotten illustrator, so I encourage you to research them for yourself.

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