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Elizabeth Annie McGillivray Knowles (1866-1928)

Elizabeth Annie McGillivray Knowles (1866-1928)


"Untitled (Cherry Blossoms)"


3" x 2" Image

5" x 4" Frame


Signed front bottom left| Excellent Condition

Provenance: Private Hamilton Collection


  • Biography

    Born in Ottawa, Ontario, her maiden name was Elizabeth Beach and her family came from Oakley Hall in the South of England. She was a relative of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach. While attending school in Toronto she studied art under F. McGillivray Knowles who was then an ARCA and in 1890 they married. They went to Europe where they both studied and traveled. By 1908 she was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy (her husband then a full member). The same year her canvas “Nocturns” was exhibited at the RCA's annual show and purchased by the National Gallery of Canada a few months later.

    By 1912 she had achieved considerable recognition as a painter and her work was noted by the “Home Journal” and “The Canadian Magazine”. In 1914 E.F.B. Johnston included her among women painters in Canada that deserved recognition. In 1919 she was elected member of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, New York.

    By 1920 she and her husband were living in New York City. Then they left Toronto, a banquet was held for them by their many friends at the King Edward Hotel. They continued, however, to exhibit their works jointly in Canada at the Wilson's Art Gallery, Ottawa, and in Montreal at the Johnston Art Galleries. Their paintings continued to be shown at the Royal Canadian Academy shows. In a joint showing of their paintings at Johnston's in Montreal in 1921, “The Montreal Star” noted, “Apart from its great artistic interest, the exhibition possesses an unusual fascination in that it affords a study in the interpretive methods of a husband and wife, both artists of high standard. Mrs. Knowles has become known as a landscape painter of the romantic school, and as a portrayer of rural scenes, while her husband's vigorous landscape painting and fine figure work is known throughout Canada...Mrs. Knowles has sought and found her inspiration in the common life around the farm, and the beauty of everyday homely things. Her favourite subjects are chickens, and she has studied them with the enthusiasm and sincerity of a naturalist, as well as the imagination of an artist. She shows the feathered beauties in all moods, against a background of weather-beaten old barns and quaint old farm houses, and the result is at once intimate, characteristic and restful. Her work with one or two exceptions is carries out in oils, a medium well adapted to show the flamboyant beauty and colouring of her feathered subjects.”

    Another joint showing by the Knowles in Ottawa was noted by “The Ottawa Journal” as follows, “Elizabeth A. Knowles stands alone in her field of miniature and larger paintings of poultry. In these she gives a touch of the human that amuses and charms, while the rich colour, fidelity to facts and spontaneous ease in technique make her work a delight both to artists and art lovers.”

    Newton MacTavish in his book “The Fine Arts in Canada”, mentions her after she had gone to the United States with her husband as follows, “Mrs. Elizabeth McGillivray Knowles, ARCA, who, with her husband, was for many years prominent in the artistic life of Toronto, has displayed a real gift for landscapes in miniature and for clever little pictures of domestic animals, especially fowl. She has a deft way of handling these subjects and with them she has gained a wide reputation. Together with her husband she has painted in many parts of Canada; and these two, wherever they have gone, have entered whole-heartedly into artistic and social life.”

    In 1928 at the age of sixty-two, she dies at her summer home in Riverton, New Hampshire, USA. She and her husband had just opened a new studio there. She also was a member of the following societies: Pennsylvania Society of Miniature Painters; Brooklyn Society of Miniature Painters, Washington Water Colour Club; American Water Colour Society; League of American Pen Women (pen, brush and pencil). She is represented in a number of other public collections including the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, as well as many private collections.

    Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977

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