About florencemcgillivray.ca

Florence Helena McGillivray 1864 -1938

An extraordinary Canadian artist, a woman ahead of her time, a prolific painter, dedicated educator, who was influential in early twentieth century  art, a contributor to the Canadian modernists  movement, who associated with and swayed the Group of Seven, she mentored Tom Thomson. Tom said "She was the best".

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Her paintings, her travels, the people and places that touched her life, and her achievements. Discover new paintings and the stories of her life.

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Painting Locations Then and Now

Inverlynn, "Pine Grove"

Sunset through the pine grove, in watercolour, from the west side of the McGillivray ancestral home, Inverlynn, in Whitby C-1910

"Church on Saturday"

The Presbyterian church in Wakefield, Quebec, a watercolour painting, is where Florence's brother-in-law Rev. Robert Gamble ministered to his flock for more than forty years. C-1925

"An Island of Rocks"

Near the mouth of Go Home Bay in Georgian Bay, Florence sat in front of the Firth cottage, and painted this watercolour view. This is a stones throw away from Dr.McCallum's cottage where the Group of Seven painted in the same era C - !924.

A photograph of the Grove

Over 100 years have passed since this painting was created, many trees have grown and fallen, storms have had an effect on the grove but this view to the west through the grove is eerily similar.

A photograph of the Church

Things in Wakefield have changed over the years but as of 2017 this quaint old house of worship still stands.

A photograph of the Island

The vegetation has changed since this island was painted, but the striations in the rock remain the same in this modern day photo.

A Collection of Works by Florence Helena McGillivray


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This limited edition, signed and numbered volume, includes a biography of the artist, her exhibition history, her educational and professional backgrounds, and more than 800 images of her works. Only 500 copies were printed get your copy from the limited number that remain

Florence's Stories

Oct. Post - Origins

We have to begin her story by connecting with her genealogy. Her father, George Gillivray( the Mc was added to the family name in Canada), was dispatched to Canada in 1833 to find  property to settle and farm by his father John. An expat scot already living in Whitby, William Dow, encouraged him to come to Whitby.  He informed George in a letter, that the area had excellent soil and a fine protected harbour for the export of produce. George found a fifty acre plot on the southwest corner of what is now Lake Ridge and Taunton Roads.They built their first home there, that they called "Clovendale". The McGillivray's were from St.Fergus, Scotland.  In 1835 John and wife Mary Gordon, and two of his sisters left Peterhead Scotland for Canada with other members of the St. Fergus community on the vessel "the Alert". Some of the others on that trip included the Brodie family and Tam Thomson ( the grandfather of the painter Tom Thomson). The Brodies settled in Stouffville.  Elizabeth Brodie and Tam Thomson were married in Whitby, with George Gillivray as their witness. They settled in Claremont, north of the McGillivray property. Both families where members of the only Presbyterian church that existed then in Pickering. They were well acquainted and likely socially engaged in the local Scottish Presbyterian community.

Nov. Post - Florence recalls

When asked later in life by an associate to recall her beginnings in art, Florence wrote, that at the age of six she had discovered the bluing soap used for the laundry and that it made a fine substance to create drawings on scrap paper. She may have done her drawings together with her older brothers and sisters, who would have had homework to do from their classes at the Whitby Grammar school. She would have also seen the paintings, hung around her home of the ornithological and maritime studies painted by her Grandfather the naturalist Charles Fothergill. This is how her interest in art began. She also wrote that this is how her love of the colours blue and green began and became dominant in her paintings throughout her career.

Nov.18 Post - Origins Cont.

In the ensuing years after George McGillivray had settled in at the newly constructed home "Cloverdale" with his mother and father, he met and married Caroline Amelia Fothergill in 1846. George's father financed the purchase of a farm and 200 acres for George and Caroline  their marital home. It was adjacent to Cloverdale  on the north west corner of Lake Ridge and Taunton Roads. They called their new home "Burnside" (these names are also place names that appear on old maps of St. Fergus, Scotland). Florence's three eldest sisters were born at Burnside, Elizabeth, Mary, and Catherine. By 1850, due to his advanced age, John, George's father was moved into a new house in Whitby and George and Caroline and their daughters moved back to Clovendale . George installed a farm manager in the smaller home at Burnside. The McGillivrays next nine children were born at Clovendale John, Adelaide, George, Charles, Caroline, Theodore, Florence, William, and Donald. In 1870 with little room to move in the Clovendale home, George purchased a larger home in Whitby, that they called Inverlynn. He again hired a farm manager to run Clovendale. One last child was born at Inverlynn, Norman. This property would bring their realestate holdings to over 700 acres, this was a prosperoue time for the McGillivray family

Nov.18 post - Florence is Born

On March 1,1864 Florence Helena McGillivray was born, the last girl of the six daughters born to George and Caroline McGillivray. We could imagine Florence as a toddler running around this pastoral farm in the fresh air and sunshine. She would have been watched closely by her parents, and cared for by her elder sisters. The McGillivray family were very socially interactive in their community, and deeply involved with the Presbyterian church. George a busy farmer and developer was active in Whitby's St. Andrew Society and in other charitable cases along with Caroline. Caroline's father Charles Fothergill, the naturalist  was also a printer, painter, publicist and politician.

His artwork had been hung around the home. Arts and education were part of the foundation that all the children were exposed too. This was an inspirational and motivating environment for Florence during her formative years.

Dec. 10 Post -education

Precise attendance records do not exist for Florence McGillivray's early education. Florence first attended the Whitby Grammar School, then the Whitby Collegiate, following her brothers and sisters. In that time these schools had a very good reputation for being outstanding educational institutions. Children came to these schools from all over Ontario because of their outstanding reputation. Florence's sister Catherine met her husband David Maclaren at the school, he was from Ottawa . Tom Thomson's  Father, John from Claremont, also attended the Whitby schools and may have boarded with the McGillivray's at Inverlynn. Florence, who had already shown an interest in art as a child, took painting classes at the schools under two different art teachers.  They were originally from England and instructed in the classic style of the English school.  Florence passed on what she learned from these art classes to her fellow students. The family had to pay extra for Florence's art courses and Florence charged some of her schoolmates 25 cents per term to share her lessons.

Florence, by 1981, had won an award for her paintings which she had entered in the Bowmanville Fall Fair.  She continued to enter her paintings in the local fairs and the proceeds from these wins helped her to afford additional painting lessons.

Jan. 25 - Art School

Encouraged by her success in art contests at local fairs and supported by her family, Florence was urged by her mother to consider art school in Toronto. She enrolled in the Toronto Art School, and the Central Ontario School of Art under William Cruikshank. This occurred in the 1880's (again no precise records of attendance exist) and it is believed that these schools where housed in the new Arcade Building on Yonge St. in Toronto. The records of  the Central Ontario School of Art, which later became the Ontario College of Art and Design, start after 1910. The Arcade building was an innovative indoor shopping mall within a three story building with an open courtyard. It  became a hub for art and business education, with studios on the upper floors and a place where young artists mingled. Florence likely made acquaintances with many of her artist contemporaries while she was there. Artists like Laura Muntz and Marion Long also attended  classes at the Arcade Building during this time. Marion Long became a life-long friend to Florence and in the thirties she painted a beautiful portrait of Florence McGillivray for posterity.


The following galleries will be regularly added to and new categories will be created, stay tuned

Index of paintings

About Florencemcgillivray.ca

Untitled, Pinegrove, Oil on Canvas, signed, C 1914, Private collection

"Gaspe Village" Oil on Canvas, Signed, 1919, Private collection

"Coca Workers" Oil on Board, Signed, 192S, Private collection

Early Paintings

Untitled, Still-life Vase, Jar, and Teapot, Watercolour on Paper, Unsigned, C 188o's Private collection

Untitled, Stilllife, Water Pitcher,Glass and Lemon, Watercolour on Paper, Monogram,1893, Private collection

Untitled Stilllife, Hat and Eggs, Watercolour on paper, Unsigned, C 1880's Private collection

Untitled Stilllife, Pot and Apples, Watercolour on Paper, Unsigned, C 1880's Private collection

Untitled, Blue Vase, Watercolour on Paper, Unsigned, C1880's Private collection

Untitled, Flowers in Green Vase, Watercolour on Paper, Monogram, C 1880's Private collection

Untitled Stilllife, Book and Jug, Oil on Cardboard, Unsigned C1880's Private collection


Untitled, Bearded Black Man, Charcoal and Graphite on Paper, Unsigned, C1913, Private collection

Untitled, Bend in the Road, unfinished, Oil on Canvas, Unsigned, C 1900, Private collection

" Ice Labrador" Watercolour and Ink on Card, Unsigned, C 1918 Private collection

"Fishing Schooner on Labrador Coast" Coloured Pencil and Ink Laid on Card. Signed, C1918 Private collection

Untitled, Women's Portrait, Charcoal and Graphite on Paper, Unsigned,C 1890 Private collection

" At Jasper, BC",Ink and Graphite on Paper, Signed, C 1934 Private collection

From Around Inverlynn

" Wheat Sheaves of Inverlynn" Oil on Canvas, Unsigned, C 1890's Private collection

Untitled, Wooded Hedgerow, Oil on Board, Signed, C 1890's, Private collection

Untitled, Path by Stream, Oil on Board, Signed, C 1890's, Private collection

:Sunset" Watercolour on Paper, Signed posthumously ACRM, 1896, Private collection

"Inverlynn Gate" Watercolour on Paper, Unsigned, C 1890, Private collection

" In Harvest Time" Oil on Canvas, Unsigned, C1890, Private collection 


Portrait of Catherine Amelia Maclaren nee McGillivray, (sister of artist) Oil on Canvas, Unsigned, 1902, Private collection

Portrait of Unknown Child, watercolour on paper, Signed, 1912, Private collection

Portrait of Theodore A. McGillivray, (brother of artist) Oil on Canvas, Unsigned, C 1890's, Private collection

Portrait of Caroline Amelia McGillivray nee Fothergill, (mother of artist) Oil on Canvas, Unsigned, C 1890's, Private collection

Portrait of Master Donald McGillivray, (brother of artist) Oil on Canvas, Unsigned, C 1880's, Private collection

Portrait of George McGillivray, (father of artist) Oil on Canvas, Unsigned, C 1890, Private collection

Arts and Crafts

Demitasse or Chocolate Cup, No makers mark, Portrait design by FHM, Monogram, 1897, Private collection

Fruit Bowl and 12 serving dishes, No makers mark, Floral design by FHM, Monogram, 1896, Private collection

Porcelain Tile, Portrait of Caroline Amelia McGillivray, Unsigned, No Date, Private collection

Carved oak panels for Dowry Box, with McGillivray Crest by FHM, C1905, Private collection

Jardiniere, Rockwood Pottery, Floral Design by FHM, Monogram, 1893, Private collection

Porcelain Creamer, No makers mark, Art Nuevo Style by FHM, Monogram, 1909, Gardiner Museum collection

From Abroad

Untitled, Channel Islands, Jersey, Watercolour on Paper, Signed, 1910, Private collection

Untitled, Sailboats in Harbour, Italy, Watercolour and Gouache on Paper, Signed, 1914, Private collection

"TD'A", Sailboat on Lake, Switzerland, Watercolour on Paper, Signed, 1914, Private collection

Untitled, Canal Moret, France,Oil on Board, Signed, 1912, Private collection

" A Street in Killarney, Ireland", Oil on Canvas, Sighed, 1914, Private collection

"Cornwall" Watercolour on Paper, Signed, C 1910, Private collection

" St. Malo" Brittany Coast, Oil on Board, Signed, 1910, Private collection

" Boats Resting, St Ives" Watercolour on Paper, Signed, 1910, Private collection


Wharf Scene, Montego Bay, Jamaica, Pastel on Paper, Signed, 1925, Private Collection

Old Spanish Houses, Port of Spain, Trinidad, Watercolour on Paper, Signed, 1925, Private collection

Jamaican Roadway, Watercolour on Paper, Signed, no date, Private collection


Untitled, Cottage by the Hill, Pastel on Paper, Signed, no date Private collection

"Gatineau Covered Bridge" At Ferrellton on the Gatineau River, Oil on Canvas, Signed, 1939, Private collection

"Kirks Ferry Falls, Gatineau" Watercolour on Paper, Signed, 1928, Private collection

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