J.W. Beatty

“I made the mistake in 1900 of going to Europe to study. That is the biggest mistake and the greatest error that any native-born Canadian can make.” - J.W. Beatty

Painting in Northern Ontario from 1909 and recognized for his landscapes, J. W. Beatty was a painter who strove to develop a uniquely Canadian art.  

Beatty was born in Toronto. His parents were Irish immigrants, his father a skilled housepainter and wood grainer. Beatty attended school until the age of 13, after which he was apprenticed to an engraving firm. His varied working career included bugler for the 10th Grenadiers during the Northwest Campaign in 1885, house painter and firefighter, before becoming an artist and later an art teacher and official Canadian war artist during WWI.  

After preliminary instruction in Toronto, Beatty studied in London and in Paris at the Académie Julian. He also travelled in Holland, Belgium, Italy and Spain. 

Upon his return to Toronto, he taught art classes and painted in Quebec and Northern Ontario, producing works like The Evening Cloud of the Northland (1910). In 1914, he moved into the newly constructed Studio Building; the same year he and A. Y. Jackson were commissioned by the Canadian Northern Railway to paint in the Rocky Mountains.  

Beatty was elected to the Ontario Society of Artists and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and was president of the Arts and Letters Club in 1912.

Collection of the Library and Archives, National Gallery of Canada