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Knowles Page 20

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Farquhar McGillivray Knowles (1859-1932)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A wonderfully executed, impressionist view of a steamer about to leave the dock as a squall passes through in the distance.

A shaft of afternoon sunlight has managed to burst through, briefly, to light up the ship with the kind of "magic hour" light that photographers would die for - and often wait weeks to find; Farquhar just conjured it up off his palette.

The smoke from the funnel, and the figures scurrying about, gives this picture the breath of life that transcends the printed page.

It shows why Farquhar was widely hailed as a master craftsman of seascapes.


Getting Up Steam, Farquhar McGillivray Knowles c 1891
Orig. wc - Size - 12" x 16"
Found - Toronto, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure Farquhar McGillivray Knowles: Farquhar was born in Syracuse, New York, of English parents who moved to Canada when he was still an infant. Strangely enough, for one with obviously artistic sensitivities, he returned to the US to attend military college - in the years just before the Custer massacre - but came back to Canada in 1876.

He entered the William Notman and John Fraser photographic studios, which were busy having skilled painters add colour to portrait photos they were taking of wealthy patrons. John Fraser gave Farquhar his first painting lessons.

In 1885 - like many Canadian painters of the era - Farquhar went to Europe to study under leading painters in England and France.

In 1895 he married Elizabeth Annie (Beach) McGillivray Knowles, who was a niece of famed Canadian painter, FM Bell-Smith (below Farquhar, left, with Bell-Smith right).

Today the paintings of Elizabeth and Farquhar often show up at auctions, side by side.


Self-portrait, Farquhar McGillivray Knowles c 1885
Orig. wc - Size - 7" x 9" oval
Found - Toronto, ON



Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

A fabulous painting of one of Canada's most famous haunts for artists, Percé Rock, Quebec, with the hole pierced by the sea, just off the village.


Cleaning Fish, Percé Rock (detail) - Farquhar McGillivray Knowles c 1891

Orig. wc - Size - 12.25" x 19" oval
Found - Toronto, ON
Formerly Imperial Oil Art Collection

The longest name in Canadian art is probably that of Farquhar Knowles right in 1930. He is listed in many art dealer books as:

Farquhar McGillivray Strachan Stewart Knowles.

More Great Canadian Treasures by Farquhar McGillivray Knowles
Are Ye Ready Lads! 1891 Gathering Kelp (detail) 1891
Westminster Abbey 1895 The Wayside Cross 1905
Low Tide Gaspé 1891 St. Levan's Church, Cornwall 1892
Farquhar moved to Toronto where he taught art at the Ontario Ladies College in Whitby, and at his large studio below which, with its high ceilings and fine rugs certainly impressed his visitors.

We know that Farquhar became very successful at painting decorative murals in the houses of wealthy families. He was also phenomenally successful with his seascapes and harbour scenes.

Farquhar moved to New York in 1915. After 1927 he had a studio in Riverton, New Hampshire, where Elizabeth died in 1928. Farquhar spent winters in Toronto.

It was a great loss to Canada when Farquhar's brush was stilled, in Toronto, in 1932.

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