C.W. Jefferys

“It is inevitable that a country with such marked physical characteristics as Canada possesses should impress itself forcefully upon our artists.” - C. W. Jefferys 

C. W. Jefferys was a painter and illustrator. While broadly known for his illustrations of early Canadian life, the country’s landscape was the principle subject of his paintings. 

Jefferys was born in Rochester, Kent, England in 1869. As a child, he immigrated with his family to Philadelphia before moving to Toronto, Ontario around 1878. As a teenager, Jefferys apprenticed with a lithography firm and studied oil painting with George A. Reid and watercolour with C. M. Manly. 

In 1892, he moved to the United States and became an artist reporter for the New York Herald. While covering the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Jefferys encountered Scandinavian painting. He, like other Canadian artists of his time, would be struck by the clarity and sharpness of the light captured in these works. Later this would be translated through his affection for the prairie landscape in paintings such as Western Sunlight, Last Mountain Lake (1911). 

Over the course of the following decades, Jefferys illustrated numerous publications, including The Makers of Canada (1911), Chronicles of Canada (1914–1916) and A Picture Gallery of Canadian History (1942–1950). During World War I, Jefferys documented military training at Camp Petawawa and Niagara for the Canadian War Records. Later he would teach painting and drawing at the University of Toronto. 

Jefferys received numerous awards, including an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Queen’s University in 1934. C. W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute, a high school in North York, Toronto was posthumously named for the artist.