Artwork by Charlotte Mount Brock Schreiber,  Don’t Be Afraid

Charlotte Schreiber
Don’t Be Afraid

oil on canvas
titled and dated circa 1878 on the exhibition labels on the reverse
32.25 x 43 ins ( 81.9 x 109.2 cms )

Auction Estimate: $150,000.00$100,000.00 - $150,000.00

Price Realized $624,000.00
Sale date: December 6th 2023

Estate of the Artist
Herbert (“Harrie”) Schreiber, Toronto
By descent to Paris (“Perry”) Harrie Stuart Schreiber, Port Carling, Ontario
Paul Duval, Toronto
Acquired by the present Private Collection, circa 1968
“Sixth Annual Exhibition of the Ontario Society of Artists”, Toronto, May 1878, no. 57 as Don't Be Afraid at $200
“Second Annual Sale by Auction of Paintings and Drawings under the Auspices of the Society of Artists”, Exhibition Rooms, Toronto, 7 December 1878, no. 89 as Don't Be Afraid
“Charlotte M. Schreiber: A Retrospective”, University of Toronto, Erindale Campus Art Gallery, 30 October‒18 November 1967, no. 7 as “Sleighing Scene, Spring field on the Credit”, (1875) (Harrie, Edith & Delisle Schreiber as children)
“Ontario Society of Artists: 100 Years, Art Gallery of Ontario”, Toronto; travelling to Art Gallery of Hamilton; London Public Library and Art Museum; Sarnia Public Library and Art Gallery; and Art Gallery of Windsor, 16 September 1972‒29 April 1973, no. 105 as Spring field on the Credit, 1875
“From Women's Eyes: Women Painters in Canada”, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, 12 December 1975‒1 February 1976, no. 16 as “Spring field on the Credit”, 1875
“Through Canadian Eyes: Trends and Influences in Canadian Art 1815‒1965”, Glenbow‒Alberta Institute, Calgary, 22 September‒24 October 1976, no. 31 as “Springfield on the Credit”, 1875
“The Child in Ontario Art”, The Macdonald Gallery, Queen's Park, Toronto, 27 June‒29 July 1979, no. 16 as “Springfield on the Credit”, 1875
“Charlotte M. Schreiber: A Retrospective”, Erindale Campus Art Gallery, University of Toronto, Toronto, 16 September‒27 October 1985, no. 32 as “Springfield on the Credit” and undated
“Collector's Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; travelling to Musée du Québec, Quebec City; Vancouver Art Gallery; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, 14 May 1988‒7 May 1989, no. 23 as “Springfield on the Credit”, circa 1880
“Home Truths,” Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa; travelling to Mississauga Library Arts Centre; Rodman Hall, Saint Catharines, 4 September 1997‒22 February 1998
“Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver Art Gallery; travelling to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary; Art Gallery of Hamilton, 30 October 2015‒25 September 2016 as “Don't be Afraid”, circa 1878
“Highlights from ‘Embracing Canada’,” Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Montreal 22 October‒5 November 2016, no. 7
“Our Children: Reflections of Childhood in Historical Canadian Art”, Varley Art Gallery, Markham, Ontario, 13 April‒23 June 2019
‘Ontario Society of Artists’, “Daily Mail” (Toronto), 22 May 1878
‘Ontario Society of Artists’, “The Daily Globe” (Toronto), 24 May 1878
‘Ontario Society of Artists Second Annual Sale’, “The Daily Globe” (Toronto), 9 December 1878
J. Russell Harper, “Painting in Canada: A History”, Toronto, 1966, page 217, reproduced page 253 as “Springfield on the Credit”, 1875
Joan Murray, “Ontario Society of Artists: 100 Years”, Toronto, 1972, reproduced page 54 as “Springfield on the Credit”, 1875 and as possibly exhibited O.S.A. 1876, no. 9 as “A Game of Play”
Paul Duval, “High Realism in Canada,” Toronto, 1974, page 26, reproduced page 19 as “Sleighing on the Credit”, circa 1875
Nathalie Luckyj and Dorothy Farr, “From Women's Eyes: Women Painters in Canada”, Kingston, 1975, reproduced page 22 as “Springfield on the Credit”, 1875
Margaret Fallis, “Charlotte Schreiber, R.C.A. 1834‒1922”, (MA Thesis Research Paper, Carleton University, Ottawa, 1985), pages 45, 51‒52, 70, 76‒77, cat. 34 as “Springfield on the Credit”, 1875
“Charlotte M. Schreiber: A Retrospective”, Erindale Campus Art Gallery, 1985, no. 32 as “Springfiield on the Credit” and undated, reproduced in colour on cover
Dennis Reid, “Collector's Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Toronto, 1988, no. 23, page 32, reproduced page 33 as “Springfield on the Credit”, circa 1880
Joan Murray, “Home Truths”, Toronto, 1997, reproduced page 101 as “Springfield on the Credit”, circa 1884
A.K. Prakash, “Independent Spirit: Early Canadian Women Artists”, Richmond Hill, 2008, page 38, reproduced page 39, detail page 323 as “Springfield on the Credit”, circa 1880
Joan Barrett and Gail Crawford, ‘Charlotte Brock Schreiber (1834‒1922)’, in “Extraordinary Lives: Inspiring Women of Peel”, Mississauga, 2012, page 26
Tobi Bruce, ‘Revisiting Charlotte Schreiber’, in Ian Thom, et al., “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver/London, 2015, pages 36‒39, reproduced page 37, caption page 203, as “Don't be Afraid”, circa 1878
‘Charlotte Schreiber, Edith Schreiber with her Sleigh', “An Important Private Collection of Canadian Art”, Cowley Abbott, Toronto, 1 December 2022, lot 131, reproduced page 64
Charlotte Mount Brock Schreiber (née Morrell) (1834‒1922), second cousin of Sir Isaac Brock, the hero of the War of 1812, was born in Colchester, Essex in 1834. She studied in England with John Rogers Herbert (1810‒1890), a Nazarene‒influenced painter of biblical and historical subjects and exhibited her paintings with the Royal Academy in London from 1855 to 1874. She illustrated two books, Edmund Spenser’s “Legend of the Knight of the Red Crosse or of Holinesse” (1871) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Rhyme of the Duchess May” (1873), both published by Sampson Low, Son & Marston in London. However, in 1875, at the age of 41 she married her Canadian cousin, Weymouth George Schreiber and moved to Toronto. Here she embarked on a new life as stepmother to three children by Schreiber’s first marriage to Harriet deLisle (died 1861), Edith Harriet Schreiber (1857‒1939), Weymouth deLisle Schreiber (1858‒1955) and Herbert (“Harrie”) Schreiber (1861‒1942). In Toronto she immediately became an active contributor to the city’s developing arts community. She was elected a member of the Ontario Society of Artists in 1876, taught figure drawing at the Ontario School of Art from 1877 to 1880 and was a charter member of the Canadian Academy of Arts in 1880, the first and only woman member until the election of Marion Long in 1933.

Schreiber was a relatively prolific artist during her first decade in Canada and her best‒known paintings are “The Croppy Boy”, “The Confession of an Irish Patriot” (1879), her Diploma Picture donated to the National Gallery of Canada (acc. no. 118) as a condition of her appointment to the Academy, and this painting, for many years known as “Springfield on the Credit” and variously dated from 1875 to 1884. For over fifty years this latter work has represented Schreiber in numerous exhibitions and publications thanks to the generosity of its owners.

Charlotte Schreiber moved back to England following her husband’s death in 1898, but many of her paintings subsequently returned to the extended Schreiber family in Canada. Howard G. Schreiber, grandson of Herbert (“Harrie”) Schreiber, undertook the cataloguing of the paintings in family collections and in a letter of 1 November 1960 to Nancy Robertson at the Art Gallery of Toronto he identified a canvas with P.H.S. Schreiber of Port Carling, Ontario, “Children at Play” approximately 3 feet square – "the three children of Dr. Wright of Ottawa playing in the snow.” This is likely the same painting in the Charlotte Schreiber retrospective exhibition Howard Schreiber organized at Erindale College at the University of Toronto in 1967 when it was catalogued as “Sleighing Scene, Spring field on the Credit”: (1875) (Harrie, Edith & Delisle Schreiber as children). That painting appears on a list dated 8 January 1968 as “Springfield on the Credit – 1875 (43" x 32" Sleighing Scene)” in the collection of P.H.S. Schreiber, the son of Herbert “Harrie” Schreiber.

It was possibly family tradition that led to the identification of the subjects as noted on a label on the back of the canvas. It is signed by “S.S.”, Sally Schreiber, wife of John Harrie Schreiber, grandson of Herbert “Harrie” Schreiber. The setting has also been identified as “Springfield on the Credit River” (present day Erindale, Mississauga) where the Schreibers had a cottage from 1876. There they eventually built three homes, one of which is the current residence of the President of Erindale College. Howard Schreiber dated the painting 1875, the year Charlotte arrived in Canada. Yet the three children of Weymouth Schreiber were born in 1857, 1858 and 1861, which would have made them approximately eighteen, seventeen and fourteen in 1875, older than the children depicted in the canvas.

More recently Tobi Bruce of the Art Gallery of Hamilton has identified this painting as a work titled “Don’t Be Afraid” that Schreiber exhibited with the Ontario Society of Artists in May 1878. The painting was noted by the writer in Toronto’s Daily Mail on 22 May 1878. “’Don’t Be Afraid’, by Mrs. Schreiber, is the largest picture she sends, and certainly does her credit; it is not a scene from the imagination but a reality, and the characters who inspired the painter with the idea can be seen any fine winter’s day on many a Canadian hillside. “Don’t be Afraid” – we almost hear those words as we read the roguish but kindly look in those ‘big brother’s’ faces as they start their pretty little sister on her downward trip and seem to instruct as well as try to cheer.”

Schreiber subsequently submitted “Don’t Be Afraid” to the Ontario Society of Artists’ second annual auction in December 1878 when the writer in “The Daily Globe” observed on 9 December 1878, “Mrs. Schreiber’s excellent picture, “Don’t Be Afraid”, only elicited a bid of $78, though it was not overpriced last summer at $200.” Was the canvas withdrawn at the low bid or was it purchased by a family member and thus descended in the family?

The history is further complicated by an apparently identical painting (there are slight variations in the landscape upper left and lower right) offered by The Old Print Shop in New York and reproduced in black and white in advertisements in “The Old Print Shop Portfolio” in December 1964 (page 92) and in “Antiques Magazine” in January 1966 (page 2). That unsigned painting, measuring 30 1⁄2 x 40 inches, was attributed by The Old Print Shop to the American artist Junius Brutus Strearns (1810‒1885), but might it in fact be the canvas sold at auction in December 1878 or a replica painted by Schreiber?

Whatever the identity of the subjects and the painting’s early exhibiting history, this canvas, descended in the Schreiber family and is a major work in Charlotte Schreiber’s career and a characteristically Canadian subject. The two boys are dressed in Red River Coats, one with red trim, one with a red sash. Edith wears a Little Red Riding Hood cape and bonnet and blue skirt and all three wear boots and stockings. Indeed red is a repeated accent across the foreground of the picture, from the cloth in the basket, to the boys’ trim and sash, to Edith’s coat to the lining of the gloves in the snow. Edith nervously holds on to her brother’s arm, his gloves thrown into the snow at the left, while he explains how to use the rope to stear the wooden runners of the green sled. The diagonal line created by the sled and figures crosses a diagonal line leading from the woven picnic basket and abandoned satchel, across the rear boy’s back to the tree at the crest of the hill upper left. The central grouping is magnificently framed by the snowy hill and trees.

We extend our thanks to Charles Hill, Canadian art historian, former Curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery of Canada and author of “The Group of Seven‒Art for a Nation”, for his assistance in researching this artwork and for contributing the preceding essay.

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Charlotte Mount Brock Schreiber
(1834 - 1922)