|Carl Gordon Cutler is
an example of a painter who began in the genteel Salon milieu
who grew into a modernist later on in his career. He was born
in Newton and graduated from Newton High School.He attended the
School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the late 1890s at
the time that the institution's faculty favored the Bostonian
tradition of portraiture in oils which derived much from the
work of European Old Masters. Later he was a student at the Acadimie
Julien, Paris, where he met with some success and periodically
exhibited work in oils. Even at this early date, Cutler reveals
a special interest in color, while most Salon painters maintained
a naturalistic palette of grays, yellow ochers, dull reds, and
brown hues. However, it was not until he had been back in the
States for several years that Cutler's mature style began to
On his return to Boston, he took rooms at the Fenway Studios, where he worked until 1941. He also kept a studio in South Brooksville, Maine. In 1913 Cutler formed "The Four Boston Painters" with Academie Julien alumni Maurice Prendergast, E. Ambrose Webster, and Charles Hovey Pepper. Later in 1913, Cutler exhibited two oils in the Armory Show. This groundbreaking exhibition featured the work of American artists alongside masterworks of the major European Modernist movements such as Cubism and Fauvism. Many American painters, including Cutler and his fellow "Four Boston Painters," were inspired by what they saw in the Armory Show to break free from what they perceived as the bourgeois traditions of American painting. From the work of John Marin, the Zorachs, and Marsden Hartley, Cutler gained valuable insight into what would become his two greatest artistic passions: the medium of watercolor and the landscape of Maine.
It was not long after the Armory Show that Cutler made his first painting trip along the coast of Maine, and by the mid-1920s he had dedicated himself solely to picturing the Maine landscape in his plein-air watercolor style. His Maine watercolors met with considerable critical acclaim; soon he had established himself as not only a popular and successful artist, but also a well-respected theorist on the subject of color in painting. His 1923 book Modern Color describes a detailed system involving a scale of 168 pigments; he explains how to mix pigments so that they imitate the appearance of natural light.
By 1920, he joined with four other Boston painters who were also using watercolor in innovative ways: Charles Hovey Pepper, Marion Monks Chase, Harley Perkins and Charles Sidney Hopkinson. They called themselves the Boston Five and over the next 15 years, they exhibited their works together at the Boston Art Club, Vose Galleries and the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard. Until his death in 1945, Cutler used this technique to produce hundreds of sensitive and immediate views of well-loved spots such as Mount Desert, the Camden Hills, Deer Isle, and Eggemoggin Reach. He continued to exhibit in the urban centers of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, yet his inspiration was to be found almost exclusively the dramatic landscape and the rich artistic tradition of Maine.
He spent the last 30 years of his career focusing exclusively on watercolors of the Penobscot Bay region.