The Fathers of Confederation

A portrait depicting Canada’s Fathers of Confederation was commissioned by the province of Ontario in 1917. It was painted by artist Frederick Challener based on an original 1883 version created by Robert Harris that hung in the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa until it was burned by a fire there in 1916.

The setting for the painting is the Quebec Conference of 1864, where delegates from the Canadian (Canada East and West) and Maritime provinces (Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) met for a second time to continue discussing a union of the British North American provinces. The meeting was a follow-up to the Charlottetown Conference in Prince Edward Island the previous month. Out of the discussions at Quebec emerged 72 resolutions that would form the basis of a constitution for a union of the British North American colonies.

The Quebec Resolutions were presented to the British Government at the London Conference the following year and drafted into the British North America Act passed by the British parliament in March, 1867. The Dominion of Canada came into existence officially on July 1, 1867.

During the winter of 2020, the Archives of Ontario initiated a project to restore the portrait. The canvas was carefully protected with Japanese tissue applied with fish glue, removed from its frame and lowered from its location above the grand staircase in the Legislative Building. Once off the stretcher, it was carefully rolled up on a large spool and transported off-site to a studio for examination and repair.