Nora Frances Elizabeth Collyer was born in Montreal on June 7, 1898. She attended Trafalgar School, a prestigious Montreal girls school, between 1913 and 1924. Collyer studied at the Art Association of Montreal under Maurice Cullen and William Brymner. She was the youngest of the ten female artists who today are commonly referred to as the Beaver Hall Group (or sometimes as the Beaver Hall Hill Group or Beaver Hall Women Painters). The other members of the group included Emily Coonan, Prudence Heward, Mabel Lockerby, Mabel May, Kathleen Morris, Lilias Torrance Newton, Sarah Robertson, Anne Savage and Ethel Seath.
Collyer moved into the now-famous building located at 305 Beaver Hall Hill in 1921, and for three years shared a studio there with Anne Savage. She began exhibiting with the Royal Canadian Academy (R.C.A.) as early as 1922, and a few years later took a job as an art teacher at a private girl's school in Montreal where she taught for five years. Barbara Meadowcroft, in her excellent book on the Beaver Hall women, (1) claims that after the death of her mother in 1930, she made a commitment to look after her father and the household, which was actually two properties: one in Westmount, the other in the Eastern Townships at Foster. She continued to do this dutifully until her father's passing in 1946. Shortly after, Nora Collyer relocated with her friend Margaret Reid, first to an apartment and then to a duplex on Elm Avenue not too far from where she had been brought up. Here in the Elm Avenue home, she gave art lessons privately to individuals and sometimes to very small groups. In 1950, she and Reid bought a property near Magog, Quebec and built Strawberry Hill. Her paintings were included in several exhibitions of the Canadian Group of Painters and one of her works was included in the exhibition of Canadian paintings in the Canadian Pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. In 1964, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff hosted a solo exhibition for Nora Collyer. It is the only solo exhibition of Nora Collyer paintings to be hosted by a commercial art gallery still actively specializing in Canadian art. Collyer died on June 11, 1979, only three weeks after Margaret Reid.
(1) Painting Friends: The Beaver Hall Women Painters, Barbara Meadowcroft, Vehicule Press, 1999.