Associated with the American Symbolist movement of the late nineteenth century, artist Carl Gutherz was born in Schoeftland, Switzerland, in 1844 and immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1851. His family settled in Memphis about 1860, where they remained throughout the Civil War. From 1869 to 1872 Gutherz received his academic training at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris under Isadore Pils, with further studies in Munich, Brussels, and Rome.
In 1875 Gutherz accepted a teaching position at Washington University in St. Louis, where he remained for nine years, assisting Halsey Ives in establishing the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts. During this period he frequented St. Paul and Memphis, painting landscapes, taking portrait commissions, and designing costumes, invitations, and floats for the annual Memphis Mardi Gras. In Memphis, he met and wed Kate Scruggs, with whom he had two daughters and a son.
From 1884 to 1895 Gutherz attended the Academie Julian in Paris, studying with Gustave Boulanger and Joseph Lefebvre. Here, influenced by Symbolist theories, he produced his most successful paintings–large allegorical works such as Light of the Incarnation (1888). He exhibited annually in the Paris salons, and his work was shown extensively in the United States as well, appearing at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, Chicago Columbian Exposition, Trans-Mississippi Exposition, Tennessee Centennial Exposition, and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. In 1896 he executed a mural for the Library of Congress and remained in Washington, D.C., until his death in 1907.
During these last years, he completed two additional murals at the People's Church, St. Paul Minnesota, in 1901, and the Allen County Court House, Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1902. He also produced a design for an arts and sciences pavilion in 1906 which was the basis for the development of Brooks Memorial Art Gallery in Memphis, now the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
Marilyn Masler, “Carl Gutherz: Memphis Beginnings,” West Tennessee Historical Society Papers 46 (1992): 59-72