Charles Umlaufs sculptures range from detailed realism to lyrical abstractions. His materials are equally diverse, from the exotic woods and terra cotta or cast stone of his earlier pieces, to the rich bronzes and alabasters or luminous marbles of his prime. With equal facility, Umlauf sculpted family groupings (particularly mothers and children), delightful animals, religious and mythological figures, and sensuous nudes.
Charles Julius Umlauf was born on a farm outside South Haven, Michigan, in 1911, the sixth of eight children born to French and German immigrant parents. When he was eight, the family moved to Chicago. Umlaufs fourth grade teacher soon recognized his artistic talents and took him to the Art Institute of Chicago where he was given summer scholarships. After high school Umlauf studied at both the Chicago Art Institute and the Chicago School of Sculpture. In 1937, he married Angeline Allen, a fellow student at the Art Institute.
In 1941, the couple moved to Austin, Texas, where Charles had agreed to join the new art department at the University of Texas as a life drawing and sculpture instructor. He taught there for 40 years, retiring as professor emeritus in 1981.
During his career, Umlauf was awarded nearly every professional award, including both a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Ford Foundation Grant. In Texas, he was honored in 1985 by the Houston Art League as Texas Artist of the Year and in 1993 by the City of San Antonio as Alcalde.
Umlaufs work can be seen in public collections and museums across the United States, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. In Texas, there are more of his sculptures in public placements than work by any other single sculptor.In 1985 he and his wife, Angeline Allen Umlauf, gave their home and studio with sculptures, drawings and paintings to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum in Austin, Texas.
In 2008, a rare casting of Uccelli, (a detail of Umlauf's larger piece St. Francis with Birds) was permanently installed and dedicated in Rockport Center for the Arts' Sculpture Garden. Donated by Cam Leonard, a former Board President and long-time patron of the Art Center, the piece was dedicated in memory of Virginia Leonard, and the base for the piece was constructed by Jesus Moroles.