Rex Woods, The Fathers of Confederation

Artist: Rex Woods

Title: The Fathers of Confederation

Date: 1968

Medium: Oil on canvas

House of Commons, Ottawa, Canada

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julyIn 1883 the Canadian Government commissioned Robert Harris to paint the Charlottetown Conference of September 1864. The work was to include the 23 Fathers of Confederation and secretary Hewitt Bernard. Asked to change the setting to the larger Quebec Conference of October that same year, Harris added ten figures. A preliminary charcoal sketch was made in Charlottetown, and the final work was painted in Montreal. In May 1884 it was hung in the Parliament Building in Ottawa.

The painting went to England’s Festival of Empire in 1911, after which it returned to Canada. It was destroyed when the Parliament Building burned on February 3, 1916.

On September 1, 1964, one hundred years after the Charlottetown Conference, Rex Woods embarked on a commission from the insurance company Confederation Life to recreate the heirloom for presentation to the nation during 1967 Centennial celebrations. Three delegates to the London Conference of 1866, who had been officially recognized during the Diamond Jubilee in 1927, were added on the right. The portrait above them is a tribute to Robert Harris. His signature is on the portfolio at the left, as in the original painting.