Born in Maryland in September 1851 to theatrical stage artist/designer Charles S. Getz and Sophia (Sommer Getz), William Getz spent enjoyed an upper-class childhood in Baltimore. He was surrounded by theatrical artists and designers, and therefore received an education about proper lighting techniques that would later serve him well in the photographic profession. At age 19, Mr. Getz was working as an office clerk, and within a few years married Ida Lemmon, with whom he would have a son, William C. Getz. By the late 1870s, Mr. Getz was making a living as a photographer, and is first known studio was located at 103 W. Baltimore Street. He later opened a studio at a more upscale Baltimore location, 42 N. Charles Street. By this time, he became Baltimore's best known and most prosperous photographer, acclaimed for "faithful and lifelike pictures, and for artistic execution and superior workmanship."
For his elite clientele, walking into Mr. Getz's elaborate studio must have felt like walking onto a theatrical stage, replete with the most fashionable furnishings, draperies, and, of course, several ornately framed portraits in all shapes and sizes. He produced intricately detailed miniatures made from porcelain as well as the glazed portrait panels in which he specialized. Mr. Getz successfully combined his love of drawing and painting with portraiture, frequently utilizing crayon, India ink, oil, pastel, and watercolors. His gallery grew to include copying and photographic enlargements. As his business grew, so did his number of galleries, which included studios at 210 and 212 N. Charles Street. His second-floor art studio sustained serious damage after an 1898 fire, but reopened shortly thereafter.
During the early twentieth century, Mr. Getz began a professional and personal decline, hastened by his wife's death in 1909 and the sudden illness and death of his son three years later. Nevertheless, he continued operating his Charles Street studio until deteriorating health forced him into retirement in 1914. William Getz died at the home of his brother, Dr. Charles Getz, on September 21, 1915, and was laid to rest near his son in Druid Ridge Cemetery, Pikesville, Maryland. Mr. Getz's cabinet cards have become prized collectables, and some of his photographs (including "Light Street Methodist Church") are presently on display at the Maryland Historical Society, and his portrait of Cylburn Mansion can be found at Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore.
2004 The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History edited by Mary Ellen Hayward and Frank R. Shivers, Jr. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press), p. 61.
2011 The Lost Tourist: Cylburn Mansion (URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ravenglen/7766978062).
1882 Industries of Maryland: A Descriptive Review of the Manufacturing and Mercantile Industries (New York: Historical Publishing Company), p. 214.
1898 The Morning Herald, January 12, 1898 (Baltimore: The Baltimore Morning Herald), p. 3.
2013 Getz, Photographer (Baltimore MD) by Donna Guiffrie (URL: http://www.itsallaboutfamily.com/j3/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2906:getz-photographer-baltimore-md&catid=3585&Itemid=101&lang=en).
2013 Getz Who: Baltimore Photographer William Getz (URL: https://cardtography.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/get-who-baltimore-photographer-william-getz).
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