A Midwesterner by birth, Alfred Heber Hutty is inextricably linked to Charleston, South Carolina. Born in Grand Haven, Michigan, Hutty spent most of his young life in Kansas City; his aptitude in art earned him a scholarship to the newly established Kansas City School of Fine Arts at the age of fifteen. As a young adult, he was employed as a glazier, a trade that led to posts as a stained glass designer, first in Kansas City, then St. Louis, and ultimately with the Tiffany Glass Studio in New York City. In 1908, Hutty began study with the Tonalist landscape painter Birge Harrison in Woodstock, New York, where he became a member of the emerging art colony and established a rural home. “This simple farm, the solace of solitude, the restful friendliness of the community--all these" Hutty noted, "bring out the best in a palette.”

Hutty served in World War I as a marine camouflage artist. At war's end, his search for employment led him to Charleston, a favorite destination for his mentor, Harrison. Upon his first visit to the city in 1919, Hutty famously telegrammed his wife, “Come quickly, have found heaven.” From 1920–1924, Hutty was the director of the Carolina Art Association (now the Gibbes Museum of Art) and steadily became a vital part of the local cultural community. Along with fellow artists Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, and Anna Taylor, Hutty was a leader in Charleston's twentieth-century renaissance, using his art to support the burgeoning tourist trade.

Having befriended local printmakers, he began producing etchings in 1921, was a founding member of the Charleston Etchers Club established two years later, and soon garnered national acclaim as a printmaker. However, Hutty's considerable success in that medium did not quell his enthusiasm for—or excellence in painting in oil and watercolor. Hutty's subject matter was most often the local scene: landscapes, street scenes, and vernacular architecture. As an outsider, Hutty was less inclined than his Southern peers to portray an idealized interpretation of the Lowcountry, and his images offer a more realistic record of the decayed city and its impoverished African American population. Yet Hutty’s images did little to address the pressing social concerns of the day. African American subjects are presented as pleasant participants in a nostalgic narrative; at times, facial features are blatantly exaggerated while other black figures appear to have no distinguishable facial details whatsoever.

Hutty made an extended trip to Europe in 1926, and soon thereafter adopted the pattern of seasonal residencies—spending winters in Charleston and summers in Woodstock—that he would maintain until his death. Over these decades, Hutty's paintings and prints were celebrated in numerous one-man and group exhibitions at prestigious national museums, and he was invited to membership in selective art societies. Lauded as a “poet of line and color,” Hutty's contributions to the cultural vibrancy of his adopted home were recognized in the city's daily newspaper: “Charlestonians cannot do as much for this brilliant artist as he has lovingly done for Charleston.”