American born genre painter, Charles Ulrich would become a rare expatriate who had traveled overseas to continue his formal education, and then decided to remain in Europe because his subject matter (full of social commentary and concern) was unwanted in the American markets, where landscapes and elegant ladies in lush gardens seemed to prevail.
He had studied at the National Academy and Cooper Union schools before heading to Germany to enroll in the Royal Academy. There he would train with other American students who would all become associated with Frank Duveneck, an American Realist painter. Ulrich and the other "Duveneck boys" would travel with the painter into the Bavarian countryside on painting excursions.
He returned to the United States, where he many other European trained painters were using the newest styles and methods. Ulrich however was still working in the mode of his favorite Dutch Masters of the seventeenth century, including Jan Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch. He was using light in unique ways and depicting socially realistic subjects, such as the many immigrants arriving in New York each day.
By 1884 he returned permanently to Europe, and continued painting his images of social issues of the day. He also exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1885. He retained his membership in several major art associations in the United States, including the Society of American Artists and the Society of Painters in Pastel (of which he was a founding member) and was in constant contact with his American friends and peers.
After travelling for several years throughout Italy, he settled permanently in Berlin. His works are found in many major American museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.