(Tyn-y-Groes, Wales, 1849 – Montréal 1919)
Cartoon for Meeting of the Delegates of British North America to Settle the Terms of Confederation, Quebec, October 1864
Charcoal and red chalk on wove paper
160 x 362 cm
Transfer from the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada, 1981
National Gallery of Canada, 26955
Photo: National Gallery of Canada
This detailed, full-scale drawing, or cartoon, was made in preparation for the painting Meeting of the Delegates of British North America, completed in 1884 on commission for the Canadian government. The group portrait commemorates the 1864 Quebec Conference, where seventy-two resolutions were adopted as the basis for Canadian Confederation. Thirty-four men are pictured, including John A. Macdonald (1815-1891) and George-Étienne Cartier (1814-1873). The finished painting hung in the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings, where it was destroyed in the fire of 1916. A century later, Kent Monkman produced an idiosyncratic version of the work for Canada’s 150th anniversary.
The Welsh-born painter, illustrator and teacher Robert Harris grew up on Prince Edward Island. After studying painting in the United States and Europe, he settled in Montréal but made return trips to Europe to perfect his craft. His career as a portraitist took an important turn in 1883 when he was chosen to paint the Fathers of Confederation. He was elected president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1893 and held the position for thirteen years.