“Printmaking has the prerequisites for exact criticism. It is incisive, neat, doesn’t spill over, makes its point graphically. Like all people, I am critical; because I hope to be beautifully so, I am a printmaker. For me, printmaking honors, because it criticizes, a world that is vague, vapid, gray, indecisive, boring, wandering, wavering, hovering, in-between, hiding, teasing, fence-sitting, dim, paradoxical, political, fuzzy, shifting, shiftless, infinite, two-faced, uncommitted. Such a world is our very selves. The print is a trumpet call for definition, conviction, taking a stand. When I take the etching needle in my hand the shifting becomes fixed, the in-between definite, the dim clear, the hidden seen, the teasing full-throated. ” – Chaim Koppelman
Charles Frederick William Mielatz was born in Bredding, Germany in 1864. He arrived in this country as a young boy and studied at the Chicago School of Design. Mostly self-taught, his first prints were large New England landscapes reminiscent of the painter-etcher school of American art. In 1889, he was invited by the Iconofiles Society to produce a print of Wall Street. He fell in love with the urban landscape and for the rest of his life, Mielatz created urban imagery.
Mielatz was a master technician in the field of etching, reworking many of his plates numerous times to precisely master the feeling and composition he was seeking in his images. It is not unusual for him to have many states of each print. He was also one of the early pioneers of multi-plate color etchings in this country. Although the process dates back to the eighteenth-century, for most of the nineteenth-century it was not used. It is thought that the color prints of Mary Cassatt could have influenced him.
Although there is no hard documentation that he influenced other artists active in New York City, his choice of etching style is remarkably similar to the drypoints that Martin Lewis produced in the late 1920’s, and his choice of subject matter is not dissimilar to that of John Sloan, who started producing etchings of NYC by 1905.
Charles Mielatz was a member of the New York Etching Club, the Brooklyn Society of Etchers, and was an associate member of the National Academy of Design. In 1906, he succeeded James David Smillie as the etching teacher at the National Academy, a position he held until his death on June 2, 1919.