Farquhar McGillivray Knowles was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1889 based on his reputation as a watercolor artist. He married his former student Elizabeth Annie Beach (1866–1928) in 1890. She was a niece of the well-known Canadian painter Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith. They went to Europe in 1891. Knowles studied in England for two years under Sir Hubert von Herkomer, R.A., and then in Paris for four years under Benjamin Constant, Jean-Paul Laurens, Henri Gervais and Veir Schmidt.
The couple returned to Canada and opened a school of painting, design, ceramics and life classes. A biographer wrote of Knowles at this time, “He was also keenly interested in literature, music, and in his moments of leisure indulged in a passion for carpentry, yachting, motoring, shooting and travel. Some years ago his beautiful studio in Toronto was filled with pictures, rugs, and quaint curios picked up in many parts of the world, and there he and his accomplished wife, herself also a musician and artist . . . kept open house, for they had a wide circle of friends and occupied a prominent place in the social life of the city.”
Their studio in Toronto became a meeting place for artists. Knowles became renowned for his harbour scenes and seascapes, and also painted decorative murals in the houses of wealthy patrons. In 1911 Knowles installed eleven mural panels in the music room of the wealthy Eaton family of Toronto. They depicted historical musical scenes and included one of Arcadia with Pan playing his pipes, and his goats.
The couple spent 1916 living on their yacht in New York Harbor, where Knowles painted the harbor. At this time he was aged fifty-seven. They returned to Toronto, but in 1920 moved to New York. They took an apartment in Washington Heights, Manhattan. They often returned to Canada and participated in the main exhibitions, including the annual exhibitions of the Royal Canadian Academy.
Farquhar and Elizabeth Knowles had a studio at their summer residence in Riverton, New Hampshire. Elizabeth McGillivray Knowles died on October 4, 1928 in Lancaster, New Hampshire. In 1931 Farquhar Knowles married Lila Taylor, an artist and former student. Farquhar McGillivray Knowles died in Toronto on April 9, 1932.