Charlotte M.B. Schreiber, working in her studio at Erindale, Ontario, 1895
Springfield on the Credit
Springfield on the Credit, by Charlotte Schreiber, 1875
Meticulous attention to detail, careful finish and narrative style are some of the attributes associated with the painting style of Charlotte Mount Brock Schreiber. She painted mostly in oil, but at times also in watercolour, in the Victorian tradition. Although born in England, Charlotte Mount Brock Schreiber is considered to be one of Canada's distinguished women painters and one of the first women illustrators in Canada.
Charlotte Mount Brock Schreiber (née Morrell) was born in Woodham Mortimer, Essex England in 1834. Her father, Rev. Robert Price Morrell, was the rector of the local parish and an art lover who encouraged his daughter's talent.
Educated at Mr. Carey's School of Art in London, Charlotte studied anatomy under the guidance of Mr. Scharf, who had studied as a surgeon. Charlotte became a master in the detail of human form, and has said that "The human hand, the finger nail, the foot, every portion of the living body, the parts of a flower, are divinely beautiful ... it is a joy to paint them as they are in reality" (The Saturday Globe, March 2, 1895, p. 1). Later, Charlotte had the good fortune to study under the tutelage of John Rogers Herbert, R.A., who was a noted painter of portraits and of sacred and historical subjects. Like her mentor, she also painted figure and historical subjects, as well as landscapes, normal everyday life occurrences and animal studies.
Herbert encouraged Charlotte to submit for publication drawings that illustrated Geoffrey Chaucer's poem Red Cross Knight. The drawings were accepted and published with the text in 1871. She illustrated Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem The Rhyme of the Duchess May, which was published in 1874, as well as one of Jean Ingelow's poems and The Legende of the Knight of the Red Crosse for Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene. By 1855, at the tender age of 21, Charlotte was already exhibiting at the prestigious Royal Academy of Art in London.
In 1875, Charlotte married her cousin Weymouth George Schreiber and emigrated to Canada with him and his three teenaged children. The family settled in the Toronto area, where Charlotte was actively involved in the arts community.
Soon after arriving in Canada, Charlotte was the only woman appointed to the first board of management of the Ontario School of Art (now known as the Ontario College of Art & Design). She became a member of the Ontario Society of Artists (1876-1889) and, in 1880, had the distinction of becoming the first woman elected full academician of the newly-formed Royal Canadian Academy [of Art]. Another woman would not receive this honour until 1933. Her R.C.A. diploma picture, The Croppy Boy (The Confession of an Irish Patriot), 1879, hangs in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
During her time in Canada, Schreiber did not abandon her skills as an illustrator. Some of her illustrations are found in three children's books that were published in Toronto.
Her principal exhibitions included the following:
Charlotte was very active in raising funds for St. Peter's Anglican Church in Springfield-on-the-Credit, where she worshipped and played the organ. She raised money through various unique means: the sale of birds from an aviary she maintained on her property (called Mount Woodham after her childhood home); the sale of long-haired Angora cats she raised; and from the sale of her own artistic works.
Schreiber was also very generous with her time, providing advice and inspiration to various students Ernest Thompson Seton, George Reid, Lucius O'Brien and T. Mower Martin, just to name a few. She was very proud of her students and delighted in their success.
After her husband died in 1898, Charlotte returned to England. She died in Paignton, South Devon, England in 1922. Many of her works are held in private collections.
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. The rhyme of the Duchess May. Illustrated by Charlotte M.B. Morrell. London : Sampson Low, Marston, Low, and Searle, 1873. 24 p.
Charlotte Schreiber [online]. Mississauga, Ont. : City of Mississauga Library, Canadiana Room, [s.d.]. [Cited May 1, 2002]. Access: www5.mississauga.ca/heritage/new/Profiles.htm
Fallis, Margaret. Charlotte Schreiber R.C.A., 1834-1922. 106 p. M.A. thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa, 1985.
Farr, Dorothy. "Schreiber, Charlotte Mount Brock". The Canadian encyclopedia : year 2000 edition. Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c1999. P. 2110
Farr, Dorothy ; Luckyj, Natalie. "Charlotte Mount Brock Schreiber (née Morrell)". From women's eyes : women painters in Canada. Kingston, Ont. : Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, 1975. P. 23
Harper, J. Russell. "Schreiber, Charlotte Mount Brock (Morrell)". Early painters and engravers in Canada. Toronto : University of Toronto Press, c1970. P. 281-282
Newlands, Anne. "Charlotte Schreiber : The croppy boy (The confessions of an Irish patriot)". Canadian art : from its beginnings to 2000. Willowdale, Ont. : Firefly Books, c2000. P. 281
"One of our artists". The Saturday globe. (March 2, 1895). P. 1, 3
Sisler, Rebecca. Passionate spirits : a history of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880-1980. Toronto : Clarke, Irwin, c1980. P. 29, 36-37, 64, 162
Tippett, Maria. By a lady : celebrating three centuries of art by Canadian women. Toronto : Viking, 1992. P. 38-39, 201
Weaver, Emily P. "Pioneer Canadian women : V. Mrs. Charlotte M. Schreiber, painter". The Canadian magazine. (May 1917). P. 32-36