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 Elizabeth Annie McGillivray Beach Knowles  (1866 - 1928)



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Lived/Active: Ontario/New York/New Hampshire / Canada/Europe      Known for: landscape and figure painting, miniatures

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Elizabeth Annie McGillivray Knowles ARCA, NAWPS, AWCS (1866 - 1928)

An easel painter and miniaturist, Elizabeth Annie (nee Beach) McGillivray Knowles was born in Ottawa, Ontario. She lived in Europe (c.1890-1895),Toronto (c.1895 - 1920) and New York City (1920 - 1928); and died at her summer home in Riverton, New Hampshire. She exhibited frequently with many prominent North American art associations and dozens of her works are in the collections of several major Canadian museums. (1)

Her primary medium was oil paint; however there are works in watercolor, pencil and - as a miniaturist - in watercolor on ivory. Her subjects were landscapes, coast lines, rural scenes and farm animals, especially hens and roosters. Her styles were Impressionism* and Realism*; the AskART illustrations are good examples.

She studied art privately in Toronto (c.1885 - 1890) under Farquhar McGil­livray Knowles, her future husband. They married in 1890 and soon afterwards left for Europe (London and Paris), where they travelled and studied for several years, then returned to Toronto. (2)

In 1908, she was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts*; in 1919 she was elected a member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors*, New York; and in 1928 she was elected a member of the American Water Color Society*. She was also a member of the Pennsylvania Society of Miniature Painters*, the Brooklyn Society of Miniature Painters*, the Washington Water Color Club*, and the National League of American Pen Women*.

Between 1902 and 1928, Knowles exhibited twenty times with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, fifteen times with the Ontario Society of Artists* (and posthumously in 1932 and 1936), and ten times with the Art Association of Montreal (now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). She also exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition [Toronto] (1902, 1909, 1917, and 1923), the Art Institute of Chicago* (1917, 1918, 1920, and 1925), the Heliconian Club* (solo - 1916), and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts* (1918); and her paintings were shown at commercial galleries such as Wilson's Art Gallery (Ottawa), the Robert Simpson Company Limited (Toronto), and Johnson Art Galleries (Montreal).

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, her works are in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Museum London (Ontario), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).

1. Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (1970), by J. Russell Harper (p.183) notes that she "Spent some early years in Montreal and N.S. [Nova Scotia]."

2.1 Many sources indicate she studied under Farquhar McGil­livray Knowles at the Toronto Normal School, one says under him at the Ontario School of Art; however we could not find a biographical source for Farquhar McGil­livray Knowles that lists him as a teacher at either school. Most sources note that he taught privately in Toronto and at the Ontario Ladies College, Whitby, Ontario (20 miles north-east of Toronto). The Canadian Women Artists History Initiative*; A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; and The Fine Arts in Canada (1925), by Newton MacTavish all note that she studied privately under Farquhar McGil­livray Knowles in Toronto.

2.2 Harper (p.183) notes that Elizabeth Knowles taught at Alma College, a girls private school in St. Thomas, Ontario, about 100 miles south-west of Toronto, but he does not say when; it's our only source with this information. Interestingly, Farquhar's third wife Lila Caroline McGillivray Knowles (whom he married after Elizabeth died) was the Art Director at Alma College and taught there from 1925 to 1957. Source: Stephen Francom, Manager/Archivist, Elgin County Archives, St. Thomas, Ontario (by email April 16, 2012).

2.3 Unfortunately our sources don't agree on the return date from the trip to Europe. For example, The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar, say the Knowles returned from Europe in 1908; Art Gallery of Ontario - The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield says they lived in London and Paris from 1890 to 1895; but most sources don't specify the dates, they only note that after the marriage the couple studied in London and Paris, traveled in Europe, and returned to Toronto.


Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)

Who Was Who in American Art, 1564 - 1975 (1999), by Peter Hastings Falk (see AskART book references)

Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)

Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 - 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 - 1980 (1980), by Rebecca Sisler (see AskART book references)

The Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (1978), edited by W. A. McKay (see AskART book references)

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)

Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (1970), by J. Russell Harper (see AskART book references)

Art Gallery of Ontario - The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield (see AskART book references)

Agnes Etherington Art Centre (1968), by Frances K. Smith (see AskART book references)

The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III (1960), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)

The Fine Arts in Canada (1925), by Newton MacTavish (see AskART book references)

Canadian Men and Women of the Time: A Handbook of Canadian Biography of Living Characters (1912), edited by Henry James Morgan (see AskART book references)

Canadian Heritage Information Network*

Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art*

Canadian Women Artists History Initiative*

Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.



** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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