IF YOU’LL take another look at our Dominion Day cover, we’ll tell you a story about how it came to pass.
It is a copy of Ernest George Fosbery’s second painting of Sir John A. Macdonald, who 80 years ago became Canada’s first Prime Minister. The first portrait was painted when Fosbery was a teen-aged art student in Ottawa and when Sir John was a few months dead. It was done because the boy wanted to please his mother, whose father, George Hall, was a boon companion and former fellow legislator of Macdonald.
#That first painting vanished long ago, but the study he had long made of the Macdonald face, the Macdonald mannerisms and legends was to come in handy four decades later.
For the second, the original of our cover, was not completed until 1931, exactly 40 years •after Sir John’s death. It was done because Prime Minister R. B. Bennett failed to find his Conservative predecessor among paintings of Liberal prime ministers in the privy council room in Parliament’s East Block. At his behest, Fosbery, by then one of Canada’s foremost portrait painters, went to work.
#Fosbery borrowed that sea otter fur from an Ottawa store; the watch chain, cane and tiepin from a Macdonald collection in the Dominion Archives; morning coat from his own wardrobe; the pants from a part-time gardener, who had been given them by
Mrs. Fosbery and who posed as the body for the whole thing. The red tie comes from a piece of cloth found with some difficulty in an Ottawa store, spiced with Fosbery polka dots and tied with Fosbery memories.
The pose also stems from boyhood memories. Fosbery had only a face photo. So he posed his gardener informally, as he remembered Sir John. Fosberry still lives in Ottawa, still paints, and is president of the Royal Canadian Academy.
^Blair Fraser, who wrote our page-7 story on John A., asked us to find room somewhere for the following aside:
“It may sound queer to talk about footnotes or a preface to an ordinary magazine piece, but the Macdonald article is such a pirate’s hoard of miscellaneous loot that it needs one or the other, for my conscience’s sake.
“I owe the biggest debt to Dr. A. R. M. Lower, partly for direct aid and counsel, partly for the material I got from his book, ‘Colony to Nation,’ and from two of his articles on John A. I also got a good deal of help, and stole a couple of quotations, from two excellent papers that Terry MacDermot gave to the Canadian Historical Association a few years ago, and from John Irwin Cooper’s article on Brown Chamberlain in the spring issue of the McGill News.
“I’d like to thank Mr. Norman Fee and Miss N. Story at the Public Archives, and Dr. E. II. Coleman, Undersecretary of State, for guidance through the matted jungle of the Macdonald Papers (530 volumes). Grant Dexter and George Ferguson gave me access to some of the late J. W. Dafoe’s memoirs of Sir John; Harold Daly of Ottawa and the distinguished Canadian poet, Dr. Duncan Campbell Scott, kindly gave me the benefit of their personal recollections. To one and all, thanks very much.”
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