Groundbreaking realism artist, Charlotte Morrell Schreiber
Charlotte Schreiber set several “firsts” for women artists in Canada, her realism painting skills opening doors in Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and others
“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,” wrote artist Charlotte Schreiber in the Saturday Globe on March 2, 1895. (Library and Archives Canada)
Immensely talented, Schreibner was exacting in details, realism and atmosphere in her beautiful watercolours and oil paintings. Her skill led her pioneer several firsts for women, including the first woman elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 1880; 53 years would pass before another woman was permitted to join the exclusive membership.
Intense Fine Art Training
On May 21, 1834 in Woodham Mortimer, Essex, England, Reverend Robert Price Morrell and his wife Mary Mount Brock welcomed the birth of their first daughter, Charlotte Mount Brock Morrell. With the encouragement of her parents, Morrell undertook a five-year study of art at age 16 at Carey’s School of Art in London from 1850 to 1855. Enhancing her training, Morrell “also took lessons with John Rogers Herbert,” said Molly Pulvar Ungar and Vicky Bach in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online. Morrell’s skill in anatomy was honed through training with a surgeon by the name of Mr. Sharf.
Morrell’s paintings were not restrained to one area of expertise – she painted landscapes, animals, portraits, and scenes of daily life, historical and in her present day. Her attention to the smallest of elements was exhaustive and brilliant. Exhibiting with London’s Royal Academy of Art in 1855, Morrell as well participated in the Paris Salon in France. In the 1870s, the artist found work creating meticulous pen and ink illustrations in books for adults and three books for children. Red Cross Knight by Geoffrey Chaucer, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s The Rhyme of the Duchess May and The Faerie Queen by writer Edmund Spenser were several of the titles featuring her works.
Newlywed Schreibers move to Canada
A gentleman – and second cousin of the artist – named Weymouth Schreiber won the hand of Morrell in 1875. The newlyweds and the groom’s three teenage children immigrated to Canada that same year, with Deer Park in Toronto their destination. The move to a new country did no damage to Charlotte Morrell Schreiber’s blossoming career.
First Woman in Arts Associations
Joining artists’ associations in her adopted homeland, Schreiber first was elected to the Ontario Society of Artists the year after arriving in Canada. The Ontario School of Art accepted Schreiber as its first female board member in 1877 and she was the only woman teaching at the school for three years. “In 1880 [Schreiber] was a founding member of the Royal Canadian Academy and the first woman elected as full academician (although she was not allowed to attend meetings or partake in policy making), noted the National Gallery of Canada. Titled Croppy Boy, Schreiber’s strikingly realistic, colourful painting was her “RCA Diploma Picture.” It is part of the National Gallery of Canada collection, along with several other Schreiber works. Schreiber was the only woman appointed in the RCA until 1933. Artist Marion Long was elected 53 years after Schreiber joined.
Producing new paintings then exhibiting her exquisite works in Toronto, Chicago, Paris and Philadelphia, Schreiber still made time to share her inspiration and vast artistic knowledge with students. Several become renowned artists themselves – “Ernest Thompson Seton, George Reid, Lucius O’Brien and T. Mower Martin, just to name a few,” according to Library and Archives Canada. Moving in 1884 to a farm on the Credit River near Springfield (now Mississauga), Schreiber built a home studio where she created paintings and trained her avid students.
Schreiber Died in England
On the passing of her husband Weymouth Schreiber in 1898, 64-year-old Charlotte Schreiber left Canada to make her home in Paignton, South Devon in England. Carrying on with her career, Schreiber was a productive artist until her death in 1922 at age 88.
In the City of Mississauga, a plaque installed by the Ontario Heritage Foundation at the University of Toronto, Erindale Campus, recalls the contributions Schreiber gave to Canada’s art community. With her immense role in the field of art and to women’s prominent status as accomplished artists, Charlotte Morrell Schreiber was truly a Canadian pioneer.
- “Celebrating Women’s Achievements: Themes: Charlotte Mount Brock Schreiber,” Library and Archives Canada Accessed March 2, 2012
- Ungar, Molly Pulvar, Bach, Vicky, “Morrell, Charlotte Mount Brock (Schreiber),” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online Accessed March 2, 2012
- “Collections: Charlotte Schreiber,” National Gallery of Canada Accessed March 2, 2012
This article first appeared on Suite101.com in March 2012. (C) Susanna McLeod