Brigitte was a local, Lowville artist for almost 30 years. Many know her as the artist who bought the Robert Bateman house. Many others attended her classes and workshops. Her studio sign was readily visible at the end of the driveway on Britannia Road.
Originally born in Germany, her artistic talent was most likely inherited from her father who, she said, was a good oil painter. She remembers her father sketching and painting all of the time. Art was an important part of her early upbringing.
In 1960, Brigitte immigrated to Canada and settled in Winnipeg. She met her husband, Klaus, in 1965 and in 1972, they moved to Ontario. It was at this time that she pursued her painting in earnest. Brigitte studied at Sheridan College. She also studied with various, famous watercolour artists.
Not only did Brigitte pursue her own painting talents, she also began teaching throughout Ontario and Canada. Many local, Lowville residents participated in the classes and workshops she held at her home on Britannia Road and at Lowville Church.
The story of how the Schreyers came to live in Lowville is an interesting one. Brigitte met Robert Bateman in the early 80s at a show and never imagined that she would one day live in the house that he had built.
The Schreyers had recently sold their house and were looking to move to the countryside. On a drive one day through North Burlington, they spotted a ‘For Sale’ sign on Britannia Road and enquired about the house. Little did they know at the time that when Robert Bateman put his home up for sale, he had hoped that another artist would buy the house and property.
The house held a lot of appeal to both Brigitte and Klaus. Brigitte appreciated the natural beauty of the property, the chalet feel to the house and of course there was already a studio where she could paint. Klaus was a design and food service consultant and appreciated the architecture, including the Japanese and African influences that Robert Bateman had incorporated into the design of the house. It has been described by both the Schreyers and Bateman, that they were ‘smitten’ with the house.
Over the years, Klaus remodeled the house and eventually built a new studio for Brigitte that faced the back of the house.
One very important feature that came with the house was a sketch on one of the walls of an eagle head. This was quick, preliminary sketch that Bateman made supposedly while on a telephone call. That sketch was the basis for Bateman’s ‘Vigilence”. Needless to say, it was preserved when walls were repainted. The Schreyers and Batemans have remained in contact over the years and when the Schreyer’s daughter, Carmen, asked Robert to sign the sketch, he did so.
When Brigitte and Klaus moved to the Britannia Road house, their son, Derek, also lived there with them. He went on to attend high school in Burlington. Their daughter, at the time, was already away attending University.
Brigitte used Robert’s studio for a few years but when Klaus formed his own business he moved into the studio. Brigitte moved into a large room downstairs that had a walk out to the front yard. This room also became her gallery where she held exhibitions and Open Houses. Over the years, Klaus renovated and remodeled the house even building a new studio for Brigitte that faced the back of the house.
The wooded property offered a plethora of wild life including deer, wild turkeys, foxes, coyotes and many birds. They did not speak to her as subjects for her painting. Brigitte preferred close up scenes from around the house, prairie scenes and the Arctic. In her words, she ‘left the wild life to Bob’.
In 1989, not long after moving to Lowville, she visited the Arctic where she discovered her love of the north. This was the first of three visits. There is an excellent article online in the Escarpment Views, Winter 2008 that recounts her love and works of the Arctic. The link to the article can be found at: https://neviews.ca/Samples/Schreyer%20house.pdf
After living in the house for almost 30 years, the Schreyers made the decision to downsize. They can now be found in Oakville just a short walk to the lake. It was at that time the Brigitte decided to give up teaching. She however, remains involved in the art world. She continues to paint and exhibit. She has said that an artist never retires, rather just slows down.
Contributing Author: Helen Callaway