James Leonard [Len] Beechworth Cutten was born 1.5.1911 at Maylands, Western Australia, the eldest of 3 sons, Harry [1913-1943], Ronald [1919-2012]. Len's father, Harry Beechworth Cutten, (son of W.C.Cutten, Carisbrook, Upper Beaconsfield, Victoria) was station-master, and his mother Christina Alice Cutten, (daughter of John Bridge, Maylands, WA) milliner and piano teacher, in Gosnells, West Australia. Sadly no childhood drawings or sketchbooks have survived. Len's first art teacher was at Gosnells school. More serious training followed at the Perth Technical College under James Linton, and later at Sydney Technical College under Douglas Dundas. An early success came in 1932 when Len won first prize, 10 pound 10 shillings, in a W.A. Art Society competition for a portrait titled 'The Manager', possibly the first money Len earned from his art, other than wages. At this time he was working at the commerical art studio of Gibbney and Son in Perth, before joining West Australian Newspapers Ltd in 1934 as an illustrator.

Len painted using all media, but in my opinion excelled in watercolour and portraits. The portraits capture more than a likeness of the sitter, the comment most often heard is "Theres something in the eyes." and the watercolours, just look at the Flamenco Dancer, a few quick strokes of the brush and she is dancing on the paper. But I think if Len had to choose a favourite medium, and subject, it would be landscapes in egg-tempera.

Len's first exhibition, with two other artists, took place at Newspaper House, Perth, Oct 23/28, 1933. He had 21 works on show, and was 22 at the time.

Jean Armstrong also lived in Gosnells where her family owned an orchard. Len and Jean were probably aware of each other from an early age, they both went to the same school. We are not sure when they became an item, but boys and girls of a certain age soon find each other. There were married on 26.6.1936, and lived on Wheatley St., Gosnells.

Len was working at the West Australian newspaper as illustrations editor when he was called into service 5.2.1942. Harry and Ron both served in the RAAF, sadly Harry was killed in action in 1943. Sergeant Cutten served in the A.I.F. and later with the 10th Light Horse Regiment. After being discharged, 30.4.1945, Len returned to Gosnells, Perth, where his wife Jean was raising their 3 young children, Jeanette, Merlene, and Robert [Bob].

Len must have been restless, because in 1948 his sense of adventure took him to Wellington, New Zealand, and a position as head artist at Charles Haines Advertising. Jean and the children joined him a short time later, and a new daughter, Lucille, was born in 1949. First living at Raumati Beach for a year before moving to Hataitai. By 1956 Len had a new position as head artist at Carlton Carruther duChateau & King. Len was employed for about 8 years before starting, with partners, a screen printing business, 'Serigraphic Studios'. Not enjoying "business", Len decided to work from home as a commerical artist, which allowed time to concentrate on his painting. During this time Len regularly exhibited in the Kelliher and National Bank Art exhibitions. In 1968 Len held his first major solo exhibition at the 'New Zealand Display Centre', Cuba Street, Wellington.

Towards the end of the 1960's, with their 3 daughters married, and Robert overseas, and nearing the 60's themselves, Jean and Len got restless. "We got the urge to travel after making a six-months journey by van from Sydney to Cairns". So, in April 1969, after arranging for a new campervan to be ready when they arrived, off they went, by ship to England, via the Panama Canal and New York. Jean and Len then spent 2 years travelling, driving their new Commer campervan, "Koroiroi" [Idly Wandering], through England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Then across the channel to France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Italy, Austria, Germany, Holland. "Just imagine, I had never seen a Rembrandt. In Europe there were whole galleries devoted to the classical painters. In every gallery we visited, I was like a fox terrier in a paddock full of rabbits". The adventure continued throught Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afganistan, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, and Singapore. They went to the centre of Afghanistan especially to see Bamiyan, the Valley of the Great Buddhas. Here 2 giant statues, standing 175ft, are carved out of the cliff face. "We wanted to visit as many out-of-way places as possible and to take as much time as we thought neccessary. At best we did 200 miles a day. And if we liked a place we stayed there a few days. The main purpose of our journey was to meet ordinary people--to study them against their own backgrounds. We avoided the fashionable places." Then by ship to Fremantle, Australia, campervan across the Nullarbor Plain, rationing 16 gallons of water, to Melbourne and another ship back to NZ. Putting nearly 30.000 miles on the van. All that way with no other language but English, "If you can't be understood, draw it".

Shortly after returning Jean and Len retired to Otaki Beach, where Len took to surfing, gardening, and worked on his art, finishing paintings made from drawings and photographs from the trip, as well as NZ landscapes. These works were shown in Len's second major solo exhibition at the 'Rothman's Cultural Foundation Gallery', Cuba Street, Wellington, in 1974. There was another showing of Len's work, with 6 other artists at the 'Wellington Cultural Centre' in 1976.

Len continued to display and sell works in Otaki galleries and exhibitions for many years. Len and Jean still found the time for travel in the campervan, and later by car, shorter trips around NZ visiting family, plus a growing number of grandchildren.

Xmas 1979 saw Bob, Lisa, and new grandchild Vito, in NZ, which again woke up the travel bug, for in June 1980 Len & Jean made the trip to America to see Bob, Lisa, and Vito. While there Len sold paintings and drawings in some of the art markets.

Jean and Len spent many happy years in Otaki, taking an active part in local art societies, craft clubs, and church groups. Declining health during their final years meant a move down to Wellington.

Len's work comes up for sale occasionally in auctions and private galleries, and since this blog has been published, a painting has been used in a TV documentary screening 2010, and a portrait was on display in "The Cabinet Makers: Prime Ministers of NZ" exhibition, New Zealand Portrait Gallery, Wellington, Nov/Feb, 2009/10. We have also discovered works not seen by family before, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren are discovering his art. Barry Cash.

Len passed away 25.7.1998.

Jean passed away 22.1.2005.

Len and Jean's children; Jeanette, Merlene, Robert [Bob], and Lucille.

Grandchildren; Brent, Celeste, Clive, Katrina, Ketzel, Lynette, Mark, Shea, Vito.

Great-Grandchildren; Alicia, Blair, Bradley, Callum, Christopher, Diana, Holly, Kellan, Laura, Lillani, Matthew, Natasha, Samantha, Tarlia, Xander.

If you have any of Len's work we would like to hear from you, oagain@xtra.co.nz

All images are copyright and are not to be used without permission.


Lens artistic talents were well used in the army,
as editor and illustrator of the
'10 th Aust Light Horse Scrap Book, 1944'.
Lucille Cash Collection.

No comments: