Frederick Coburn was born in 1871, in the small village of Upper Melbourne in Québec’s Eastern Townships, about 90 miles southeast of Montréal.
In the close-knit community of his youth, Coburns talent quickly became noticed. Soon after enrolling in the Council of Arts and Manufactures school in Montréal he had outgrown its opportunities and went to the Carl Hecker School of Art in New York City. In 1890, at the age of nineteen, he headed for the Royal Academy in Berlin to begin his studies in the world of international art.
Coburn was trained in Europe in Germany and Paris, and was influenced by the fresh colour and light of the revolutionary Impressionists.
Breaking away from the dull dark palette and old-world themes of the European works popular at the time, Coburn used subject matter that was truly Canadian and more specifically Québecois. His favoured subject was that of habitants hauling wood by horse-drawn sleds, and enjoyed depicting the splendors of each season.
In 1896 he partnered with the Québec poet, Dr. William Henry Drummond, to illustrate Drummond's first volume of poetry on rural Québec society, 'The Habitant'. He was then commissioned to illustrate Louis Fréchette book, 'Christmas in French Canada' in 1899.
In 1928, at the age of fifty-seven, Coburn was elected a Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Coburn’s paintings are appreciated for their expression of what was truly unique about rural Québec at the time, and he is considered to be one of Canada’s finest genre painters.
In 1960 Coburn died in his Melbourne studio at 89 years of age.