Florence McGillivray was born in 1864 in Whitby, Ontario. After studying at the Ontario School of Art under William Cruikshank, she sought out J.W.L. Foster, L.R. O'Brien and J.M. McGillivray Knowles for private lessons. Subsequent to her studies, she became a teacher at the Ontario Ladies' College, Whitby and also occasionally worked as a critic at Pickering College, Ontario.
In 1881, she began travelling, exploring parts of Canada and the British West Indies, and finally ending up in France in 1913, where she studied with Lucien Simon and Menard. While in Europe, she came into contact with art nouveau and Impressionism, before these movements had had the chance to migrate across the Atlantic. After travelling in Brittany, England and Italy, she returned to Toronto in 1917, and then moved to Ottawa. She died in Toronto in 1938.
McGillivray travelled widely in North and South America and in Europe in search of new landscapes. From Ottawa she explored and sketched various parts of eastern Canada, including Newfoundland. Other travel destinations included Trinidad, Jamaica, and Bahamas Islands in the West Indies, Alaska, the eastern United States, and western Canada.
McGillivray was a prolific sketcher and painter.
McGillivray’s painting "Contentment" was shown at the Salon des Beaux Arts in 1913.
Exhibition venues included Malloney's in Toronto, Continental Galleries, Montreal, and her Frank Street Studio in Ottawa. She was also a member of various associations, such as the Ontario Society of Artists, the Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, New York, the Royal Canadian Academy and the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour.
In 1913 she was elected president of the International Art Union.She was also a member of various associations, such as the Ontario Society of Artists, the Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, New York, the Royal Canadian Academy and the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour.
The National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Agnes Etherington Art Centre and galleries in Kitchener, London, Ontario, and Windsor all count examples of her work in their collections.
Source: CWAHI, Canadian Women Artists History Initiative