Gordon Coutts

Scottish-born Gordon Coutts studied art at the Académie Julian in Paris during the 1880s before emigrating. to Australia, where he taught pupils for several years. Moving to San Francisco around the turn of the century, Coutts became a popular painter of pastoral Marin County scenery in the manner of Thaddeus Welch. Our painting is couched in the landscape style invented in the nineteenth century by the French Barbizon painters. During the early years of the twentieth century, paintings in this style became fashionable in California and were sought after by major collectors. William Keith experienced great prosperity painting California landscapes in this style—a phenomenon that did not go unnoticed by painters like Coutts. Dark foreground oaks, similar to those found in the Forest. of Fontainebleau, form a Gothic arch that frames the view towards the pastoral meadow, where cows graze peacefully, as they do in many French landscapes. The bright and soothing yellow-green palette that Coutts applies to his distances gives the work a more positive, optimistic, American character, quite different from the murky, “soulful” mood of most French examples. As often happens in California landscapes, fashionable mainstream motifs are adapted to local conditions.