Charles E. Waltensperger was born on April 10, 1871 in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Emily and Fred Waltensperger, a merchant.
Waltensperger studied art at the Julius Melchers School with fellow students Joseph Kraemer, Myron Barlow, and Fred Leipziger. While working as an elevator operator for the Detroit Free Press, Waltensperger made sketches of the passengers. This attracted the attention of publisher William E. Quinby, who was so impressed with his drawings that he paid Waltensperger's tuition at the school of the Detroit Museum of Art.
During the early 1890s, Waltensperger exhibited his work in a competition at the Detroit Institute of Arts and was awarded a James E. Scripps scholarship that financed his art studies for two years in Europe. He studied both at the Académie des Beaux Arts under Jean-Léon Gérôme, and at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1893. Upon his return to the United States, Waltensperger was employed as a commercial artist and worked as an illustrator for the Detroit Free Press. He also illustrated books written by M. Quad, the pseudonym of humorist Charles Bertrand Lewis.
Waltensperger later established his own studio and turned his interest to creating oil paintings, primarily of Dutch interiors. He traveled extensively in Europe and in New England. He was a member of a group of Detroit artists known as the Hopkin Club that held exhibitions at the Old Detroit Museum of Art before they established the Scarab Club.
Waltensperger never married and during the last five years of his life, ill health forced him to curtail his travels. He died of a heart attack on December 12, 1931 in Detroit.