Frederick Horsman Varley was born in Sheffield, England on January 2, 1881 and studied art in Sheffield and in Belgium. He came to Canada in 1912 on the advice of another Sheffield native, Arthur Lismer, and found work at Grip Ltd.. He served in the First World War and painted scenes of combat from his experiences of the time. He was deeply disturbed by what he saw.
His and A.Y. Jackson's contribution in the war influenced work in the Group of Seven. They purposely painted Canadian wilderness that had been damaged by fire or harsh climates. His major contribution to art, however, was for his work with the Group of Seven. He and Lawren Harris were the only members of the group to paint portraits.
He died in Toronto on September 8, 1969.