Joseph Saint-Charles was born in Montreal in 1868. After studying under Abbé Chabert in Montréal he left for Paris, enrolling in the École des beaux-arts in 1885. He also studied under Benjamin Constant, Jules Lefebvre and Jean-Paul Laurens, and spent some time at Rome's Ecole des beaux-arts. He returned to Canada to devote himself to teaching and to art.
His career as a teacher of design began with the Conseil des arts et manufactures, continued at Université de Montréal and then at Montreal's École des beaux-arts. He died in Montreal in 1956.
Around 1890 he executed 3 large canvases for the Sacré Coeur chapel of Notre-Dame in Montreal. In 1906 he painted La Présentation de la Vierge au Temple for the chapel of the Grand Séminaire de Montréal. From 1942 Saint-Charles was the most famous portraitist of his day. Through his studio passed the leading politicians, businessmen of contemporary Quebec society.