Beatty hailed from Toronto, Ontario. He turned to painting in 1894 and shortly after, in 1900, studied at Académie Julian in Paris. He travelled throughout Europe from 1906 to 1909 and returned home with many dark, rich, moody paintings of Dutch peasant life.
Paintings of Algonquin Park were becoming a theme of Canadian painters in the early 1900s. In 1909, the year he returned to Canada, he went to the park in order to paint Canadian landscape themes. He painted The Evening Cloud of the Northland in 1910. Beatty felt that this work represented Canada much better than his previous work called "A Dutch Peasant", so he asked the National Gallery if they would exchange the two because, as he explained, "I am a Canadian. I would much rather be represented by a Canadian picture." "The Evening Cloud of the Northland" is considered a masterpiece and is kept at the National Gallery of Canada.