Farquhar McGillivray Knowles was born ln 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. ln 1885 - like many Canadian painters of the era – Farquhar went to Europe to study under leading painters in England and France. ln 1895 he married Elizabeth Annie (Beach) McGillivray Knowles, who was a niece of famed Canadian painter, FM Bell-Smith.
Today the paintings of Elizabeth and Farquhar often show up at auctions, side by side. Farquhar moved to Toronto where he taught art at the Ontario Ladies College in Whitby, and at his large studio with its hlgh ceilings and fine rugs certalnly lmpressed his visltors. We know that Farquhar became very successful at painting decorative murals ln the houses of wealthy families. He was also phenomenally successful with his seascapes and harbour scenes. It was a great loss to Canada when Farquhar's brush was stilled, in Toronto, in 1932.