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Carl Cutler

 (1873 - 1945)
Carl Gordon Cutler was active/lived in Massachusetts.  Carl Cutler is known for modernist-leaning landscape, figure, portrait paintings.

Carl Cutler

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Carl Cutler
Carl Gordon Cutler was born in 1873 in Massachusetts. Though educated in the painting of portraits in oil, his two major artistic passions would become the landscape of Maine and the use of watercolor.

His watercolors, influenced by Fauve color and John Marin's forms, were exhibited in Europe and the eastern United States, in Boston; Philadelphia; the Museum of Modern Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art, both in New York City; and, farther west, at the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; as well as Paris, France. Cutler had more than a dozen one-man shows in New York City and Boston.

He spent the last 30 years of his career focusing entirely on painting Maine's Penobscot Bay region.

Cutler studied in the late 1890s at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where influence of the old masters on the painting of oil portraits was strong. He also worked at the Academie Julian in Paris. Cutler had some exhibition success there, but it would take several years after his return to America before his mature style would appear.

With fellow Academie Julian painters Charles Hovey Pepper, Maurice Prendergast, and E. Ambrose Webster, Cutler formed "The Four Boston Painters" in 1913. But it was later that year at the earth-shaking Armory Show introducing Modernism in art to the United States, and where he exhibited--that Cutler and so many other American artists were directed toward avant-garde ideas, and away from what they saw as the bourgeois mundaneness of American art. Cutler and "The Four Boston Painters" gained new insights from the Europeans, as well as from Americans like Marsden Hartley, John Marin and William and Marguerite Zorach.

Cutler first painted the Maine coast soon after the Armory Show.  By the mid-1920s, he was painting watercolors of the state's landscape exclusivelyviews of Deer Isle, Mount Desert, the Camden Hills and--for thirty summers, Eggemoggin Reach, where Cutler had a cottage. The artist received the plaudits of the critics and acclaim from the public.

Carl Cutler was a respected color theorist. In his 1923 book Modern Color, with Stephen C. Pepper, he explained a detailed system involving a scale of 168 colors, telling how to imitate the appearance of natural light through their use. He also discussed emotion as a significant element in artistic creation.

Carl Gordon Cutler died in 1945.

In 1994, the Vose Gallery, in Boston, put out a color brochure, Carl Gordon Cutler Along the Maine Coast 1873-1945.  Also in the 1990s, the Babcock Gallery, in New York City, published Carl Gordon Cutler, American Modernist Rediscovered, a paperback with forty-four color reproductions and an essay.

In 1998, the Portland Museum of Art, in Maine, held an exhibition, "Modern Color": Maine Watercolors by Carl Gordon Cutler, comprised of sixteen out of a total of fifty-nine Cutler watercolors bequeathed a year earlier to the Museum by Mr. and Mrs. James E. Haas.  Also in 1998, the College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine, exhibited fourteen of Cutler's Maine coastal landscapes painted in the South Brooksville area on Blue Hill Peninsula near Mount Desert Island.  They were donated by Howard R. Merriman.

In its 2003 publication, Rediscovering Newton Artists 1850 1950, the Newton History Museum, in Massachusetts, mentions that Carl Cutler's intense color and other aspects of his Modernism, were not easily accepted by Boston's conservative art establishment.


Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Carl Cutler

Cutler, born in Newtonville, Massachusetts on 3 January 1873, is an example of a painter who began in the genteel Salon milieu who grew into a modernist later on in his career.  His training was in the Boston School tradition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  From there he transferred to the academies of Paris where his teachers were Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens.   In 1899 he exhibited this work, La Mansarde (The Attic; Hainsworth Collection) and Mère et enfant (Mother and Child) at the Paris Salon.  He re-exhibited both of these works at the Art Institute of Chicago later that year.  In 1900 The Attic showed up again at the Pennsylvania Academy's annual show.  Even at this early date, Cutler reveals a special interest in color, while most Salon painters maintained a naturalistic palette of grays, yellow ochres, dull reds, and brown hues.  The surprising, bold purple and yellow shawl and the green fabric hanging behind the easel contrast with the neutral brown, tan and gold hues of the model's skirt and the various wood surfaces in La Mansarde.  Cutler also studied under George Hitchcock (1850-1913) in Holland.  Hitchcock would have shown him plein-air techniques and a free use of color, however, he would have stressed strong drawing, especially of figures out-of-doors.  Reportedly, Cutler was influenced by Seurat, as Portrait of a Lady in a Big Hat (1915; Colby College) actually shows pointillism and strictly uniform brushwork. Back in New England, Cutler joined the Boston Art Club and the Copley Society and he worked at Fenway Studios between 1906 and 1941.   

Later Cutler developed a special interest in color theory, publishing Modern Color with Stephen C. Pepper in 1923 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1923). The authors wanted to teach a simple method of using color, considering all aspects of light, values, contrasting hues, special problems with plein-air painting, and developing a scale of color.  Cutler became a member of the "Boston Five," a group of modernist watercolor painters, which included Charles Hopkinson (1869-1962).  Cutler exhibited widely, including China Cupboard and Portrait Study at the Armory Show and portraits at the Corcoran biennials of 1930 and 1937.  Every summer for around thirty years he went up the coast of Maine for inspiration. Cutler died in Boston on 2 March 1945. Cutler's son Charles Gordon Cutler, born in 1914, became a sculptor.

Submitted by Michael Preston Worley, Ph.D.; R.H. Love Galleries, Chicago

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About  Carl Cutler

Born:  1873 - Newtonville, Massachusetts
Died:   1945 - Boston, Massachusetts
Known for:  modernist-leaning landscape, figure, portrait paintings

Essays referring to
Carl Cutler

New York Armory Show of 1913