Emerging Artists | Matthew J. Cutter

A tonalist for our time

Matthew J. Cutter, Rising Sun, oil, 11 x 14.

Matthew J. Cutter, Rising Sun, oil, 11 x 14.

This story was featured in the November 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art November 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story

In 1998, three months after he graduated from college, landscape painter Matthew J. Cutter and several of his family members opened an art gallery in St. Augustine, FL. Although Cutter had earned a degree in business, he had a long-standing interest in art, having painted alongside his grandmother as a youngster. Today he remains one of the owners of Brilliance in Color, but when he isn’t tending to gallery operations, he can be found at the easel in his studio. Soon after opening the gallery, he returned to painting, eventually taking key workshops with well-known painters Scott Christensen, Dan Gerhartz, and Jeremy Lipking.

One of Cutter’s recent landscape works is on view through November 5 in the Oil Painters of America’s Salon Show at Beverly McNeil Gallery in Birmingham, AL. The painting reflects the artist’s style of choice, which is closely akin to tonalism. The American tonalist movement sprung up in the 1880s and was characterized by the use of muted grays, browns, and greens. Cutter says the style’s appeal to him stems, in part, from growing up in New Hampshire, where he often played in the woods surrounded by subtle, quiet colors. “It’s the landscape I feel most connected to,” he says. “And I feel like the tonalist movement reflects America. It’s something unique to this country and separate from European influence.”

Cutter brings a spontaneous approach to creating his landscapes. For example, the day he painted FARM BUILDINGS, his original intent was to capture a field of flowers. But by chance he glanced across the street, saw something that caught his eye, and instantly changed his mind. Like some of the earlier tonalists, Cutter is drawn to old farm structures. “I love those weathered buildings that look like they have been part of the landscape for a long time,” he says.

For the artist it’s all about capturing mood and atmosphere and conveying what he calls a “poetic feeling” in his scenes. “I want viewers to finish off the painting and bring their own interpretations to the table,” he says. “Tonalism provides that opportunity—to evoke different emotions and dialogues with people.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff

Brilliance in Color, St. Augustine, FL.

Featured in the November 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art November2015 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!

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