Charles Vetter moved from East Prussia to Munich in 1881 to take up his studies at the Academy of Fine Art. From then on Munich was to be his permanent base, apart from short trips away. City life provided him with a rich repertoire of motifs which he skilfully incorporated in his paintings. His work was much feted at the exhibitions held annually at the Munich Glaspalast and he was also a regular exhibitor at the Munich Secession.
Genre scenes set in an urban environment predominate in Vetter’s early work. However a shift of focus gradually made itself felt. The central theme of the charcoal and pastel drawings of the years around 1900 is the hustle and bustle of Munich life. The city had entered a period of rapid transformation under the Prinzregent, who ruled from 1886 to 1912. Vetter captures everyday scenes on its busy streets and squares in a loosely impressionist style, often selecting a high vantage point. His focus is not so much on the actions of the figures as on their relationship to their surroundings, which are often peppered with local architectural landmarks. The vibrancy of the urban environment is Vetter’s chief preoccupation. His compositions derive their charm from his particular skill in capturing atmospheric effects – the changing seasons and times of day and the distinctive way they interact with urban and architectural elements – for example, the reflection of light on rain-drenched streets or the delicate outline of roofs softly shrouded in snow. His evocative urban scenes have much in common with those of the Berlin painter Lesser Ury.