Carl Gutherz (1844 - 1907)

Circuit Court Muralist

Born the son of a school teacher in Switzerland on January 28, 1844, in the canton of Aargau, Gutherz and his parents. Heinrich and Henrietta, immigrated in 1851 to the United States and established a terra cotta works near Cincinnati.

The family soon moved to Memphis Tennessee, where a young Gutherz became an accomplished draughtsman. However, his desire to be a painter drew him to Paris where he studied in the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Under the tutelage if Jules Joseph Lefebvre and Louis Boulanger, he learned the best in the period’s romantic techniques.

Gutherz eventually settled in St. Louis where he taught art at Washington University. There, with Halsey C. Ives, he founded the St. Louis School of Fine Arts in 1879. His first worthy painting, Awakening Spring, won a medal at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial.

In the early 1880s he returned to Paris, and lived there for the next 12 years. During this time h became interested in mural painting. By 1895 his reputation was such that he was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Members Reading Room in the new library of Congress building. Here, the theme “The Spectrum of Light” gave Gutherz full range for his romantic style as he filled the ceiling with seven panels representing human and divine achievement in color motifs.

Gutherz understood not only the allegorical importance of his paintings for the court rooms at the Allen County Courthouse, he also understood clearly the architectural function his work would play in the space. As he described in an article published in the Fort Wayne Daily News about his work in the circuit court, "by arrangement of the pictures... there is a continued theme from picture to picture, and by the effect of color and grouping there is preserved a symmetrical expression in the general appearance of the room, attaching the ceiling to the wall and giving light into the corners which would otherwise be oppressive with shade.

Carl Gutherz died on February 7, 1907, in Washington D.C., where his principal studio was located and where the mural panels for the Allen County Circuit Court Room had been executed.