Glenn MacNutt was known primarily for his landscape paintings, and was a pioneer in using acrylic painting. Born in London, Ontario, Canada, he earned many prestigious honors during his career including a chair in watercolors at the National Academy of Design, New York. He was a Dolphin Fellow of the American Watercolor Society, a Member of the Allied Artists for both watercolor and oil, Past President of the New England Water Color Society, and a member of the Guild of Boston Artists.
His parents blended two of Canada's pioneering blood lines of people, the Scots and the Arcadians. His mother's people were from the French speaking village of Pubnico, Nova Scotia, and his father owned a music store in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. MacNutt attended grammar school in Yarmouth and spent much time at his grandparents' farm in Pubnico because of his mother's ill health. Later, when MacNutt was in his early teens, his family moved to Pubnico, where he learned carpentry from his grandfather. The harbor scenes of Yarmouth and slow-moving life of the fishing village in Pubnico had a great influence on his later art work, which included many drawings of rural characters and paintings of marine scenes.
As a young man, his artistic abilities were evident, and his father encouraged him, securing a job for him, age sixteen, with a catalog illustrator on Prince Edward Island with the R. T. Holeman Department store. Shortly after that, his family moved to Digby, Nova Scotia, where he visited often and became much influenced by Paul Yates, a photographer of local scenes. From Yates, MacNutt learned much about composition as well as photography.
In 1922, he went to Boston where he made show cards for department stores and taught gymnastics and boxing at the YMCA. Physical fitness became a part of his life, and he was remarkable among his fellow artists for feats such as doing hand-stands and back flips. By 1932, he had completed four years of night school at the Massachusetts College of Art and four years at the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Art. He had also met Evelyn Simpson, the woman he married in 1935, and her father gave the artist his first studio space in his Dorchester home. The couple had three children, and his wife greatly encouraged his art career.
By 1939, he was exhibiting with the Guild of Boston Artists, and much recognition flowed from that time. Articles on him appeared in the American Artist Magazine, the Boston Globe, and the Christian Science Monitor news papers.
However, MacNutt was a very private person and avoided many functions and commissions that would have brought him more attention. He worked at a home studio and continually experimented with new painting techniques, often trying to figure out how artists he admired such as the English Turner achieved certain effects. MacNutt painted in oil, watercolor, and egg tempera as well as acrylics and did portraits and landscapes, often in impressionist style. He insisted on using quality materials and would go to great lengths to get the paper he wanted. His early works were watercolors or oil, but one day a complimentary set of acrylics arrived in the mail, and that unsolicited gift was the beginning of his painting by 1973 exclusively with acrylics.
He was also committed to realism in the depiction of his subject matter, but saw beauty in almost everything because he looked for color and design. One of his sayings was "You have to learn to paint what you see." He usually refused to give art lessons but willingly discussed his theories of painting. As he grew older, he hearkened more and more back to the scenes of his youth in Nova Scotia. He painted his entire life, finishing his last work just several days before his fatal heart attack on October 16, 1987.
During much of his career, his work was handled by Grand Central Galleries in New York and the Guild of Boston Artists in Boston. In addition to numerous museums, works are owned by the collections of Fleet Bank, State Street Bank, Harvard University, Tufts University, and the City of Boston.
Since his death there have been by request shows of his work at the Guild of Boston Artists (twice), the Dorchester Historical Society (Massachusetts) and the Admiral Digby Museum in Nova Scotia.
Relative to the capitalization in the middle of the name (MacNutt) versus the way the family now writes the name (Macnutt), Karen Macnutt wrote: "both spellings are correct. Glenn G. Macnutt was my father. I spell the name the traditional way. . . 'MacNutt'. That is the way his early paintings are signed and the way his father spelt the name. In or about 1980, my brother got tired of people spelling the name "MacNutt" so he dropped the capital "N" to prevent the space from being put into the name, that is he started spelling his name "Macnutt." My father liked the solution to a problem that also bothered him so he started spelling his name as "Macnutt."