Carl Gordon Cutler was born in 1873 in Newtonville, Massachusetts. His artistic passion and reputation lay in his depiction of the Maine landscape and his pioneering use of watercolor. In 1913, with the advent of Modernism in America, Cutler and his painter friends Charles Hovey Pepper (1864-1950), Maurice Prendergast (1859-1924), and E. Ambrose Webster (1869-1935) formed the group "The Four Boston Painters" who made early, innovative and individual stands for modernist ideas in their work.
Cutler studied in the late 1890s at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston then at the Academie Julien in Paris, under Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens (with Pepper, Prendergast and Webster). Cutler went on to study with George Hitchcock in Holland who taught him the importance of plein-air techniques and a free use of color. His friends had significant contacts among other modernist circles including Pepper’s connection with Aman-Jean, Webster’s with Renoir and Gleizes, and Prendergast’s with James Morrice and possibly Aubrey Beardsley. By 1901, Cutler had exhibited at the Paris Salon, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and established his own studio in Boston. Well before the 1913 Armory Show in New York, Cutler and “the Four Boston Painters” were well recognized as modernists in America and showed in their own exhibition in January 1913 at Brooks Reed Gallery in Boston, and again in February at the inaugural Armory Show in New York.
Following his participation in the Armory Show, Cutler made his first painting expedition to Maine’s Penobscot Bay region, an area to which he would return consistently over the next 30 years. The area’s sharp summer light drew him there, as did the dramatic outcroppings of magmatic rock which seemed to steadfastly creep seaward in a garland of tenacious oak trees, wind gnarled fir and spruce, and lithe birch and poplar. By the mid-1920s, Cutler was painting almost exclusively views of Deer Isle, Mount Desert, the Camden Hills and Eggemoggin Reach, where he had a cottage. He reveled in the region’s brilliant sunlight and reflective sky and sea which seem to suspend time for the tree-clad hills, islands and harbors. This watercolor likely dates between 1913 and 1928, the earlier years in which he visited and painted Maine landscapes. These earlier works illustrate a primacy and grasp of modern aesthetics, including color and composition.
Cutler was a respected color theorist and in 1923 with Stephen Pepper he published a book on color theory that outlined a scale of 168 colors, describing ways to imitate the appearance of natural light through the use of these colors, as well as incorporating emotion as a significant element in artistic creation.
Cutler’s Maine watercolors constitute an important body of work within the American watercolor tradition, with other notable exponents of the medium including Winslow Homer, John Marin and Andrew Wyeth. Cutler exhibited widely during his career in Europe and the United States including in Boston, and Philadelphia, at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a member of the Boston Art Club, the Copley Society and had over a dozen one-man shows in New York City and Boston. His work can be found in private collections and public institutions including the Portland Museum of Art and the Colby College Museum of Art.