Doris McCarthy was born in Calgary, Alberta. She entered the Ontario College of Art in 1925 and studied under Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald, J.W. Beatty and Emanuel Hahn where she graduated from the O.C.A. with Honours.
Each summer she travelled in Canada or abroad in search of subjects for her canvases over the years she visited Quebec, Ontario, B.C. and Europe, took post graduate study at the Central School of Art and Crafts, London, England, under John Skeaping, John Farleigh, and others (1935-36). By 1942 she was becoming known to a larger number of Canadian collectors
She was elected an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1951 and had been made a member of the Ontario Society of Artists in 1945 (Pres. 1964-67); the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, 1952 (Pres. 1953-55; 56-58) She is represented in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario; Art Gallery of Hamilton; London Public Library and Art Museum; and in many private collections.