About the Project
The mission of this website is to communicate the richness of Canadian art, culture and history as presented in the work of Charles William Jefferys.
His historical illustrations have stimulated the imagination and resonated in the cultural memory of Canadians for generations. Sixty years after his death, his images are still being re-purposed in various forms as he continues to be Canada’s most published historical artist. However, his body of work covered much more than just historical illustration in the pen and ink style so familiar to us from our Social Studies textbooks. His Impressionist landscapes, particularly of Western Canada, significantly influenced the artists of his day including the famous Group of Seven. He was a prolific writer, teacher, and journalist. However, much of his work resides in the private collections of family and other individuals or in public archives and galleries and for the most part, are rarely seen by the general public. Our vision is to tap into these resources to create a comprehensive online archive of the Jefferys legacy providing easy access to this treasure of Canadian heritage.
(From Charles William Jefferys & Robert Stacey Fonds, Art Gallery of Ontario, E. P. Taylor Research Library and Archives)
Charles William Jefferys (1869-1951) was a prolific Canadian artist, illustrator and author. He was a talented landscape painter whose work was widely exhibited and collected, but is best known for his illustrations of Canada’s past. He was born in Rochester, Kent. In 1875 the Jefferys family emigrated to Philadelphia, then in 1878 they moved to Hamilton before settling in Toronto around 1880. Jefferys began formal training as an artist in 1884 when he started attending evening classes at the Ontario School of Art. The following year, Jefferys began a five-year apprenticeship at the Toronto Lithographic Company, where he was also hired out to work occasionally as an illustrator for The Globe. He worked as an artist for The Globe, as well as for a number of other Canadian newspapers until the fall of 1892 when he was taken on as an artist-reporter for The New York Herald. Jefferys lived in New York and New Jersey until 1899, returning to Canada permanently in 1901, eventually settling in York Mills. Jefferys illustrated a large number of books and articles providing illustrations for The Makers of Canada (1903-1911), Chronicles of Canada (1914-1916), was co-founder of the satirical periodical The Moon (1902-1904), and wrote and illustrated Canada’s Past in Pictures (1934) and The Picture Gallery of Canadian History (1942, 1945, 1950). He also gave frequent lectures and published numerous articles on art, architecture, and Canadian history. From 1912 to 1939 Jefferys was instructor of freehand drawing at the Department of Architecture at the University of Toronto. He also was a lecturer and part-time instructor at the Ontario College of Art. Jefferys worked for Canadian War Records in 1918, recording the activities Polish Army in Exile at Niagara and Toronto and the Siberian Army in Exile in at Camp Petawawa, Ontario. Jefferys was active in many organizations, including the Ontario Society of Artists, Royal Canadian Academy, Art Students’ League, and the Arts and Letters Club. He exhibited his art widely throughout his life, in Canada and abroad, and his work appears in major institutions across Canada.