João's mother, Amália, was born in Pavia (Alto-Alentejo), but soon moved to Évora, where she met José Cutileiro, a native of Ebor who eventually became her husband. The couple had three children and João is the second of them.
João Cutileiro had a happy childhood and adolescence, where travel was a constant, because of the profession of his father, a doctor belonging to the World Health Organization. So, in 1941, at just four years of age, João goes with his family to the Azores, where his father, then a military doctor, had been posted. He lives on Terceira Island for two years, of which he has fond memories. The return to the continent takes place in 1943.
In Lisbon, the Cutileiro family lived on Avenida Elias Garcia, in a house famous for being frequented by the so-called "intelligentsia", that is, frequented by most of the personalities who drew the Portuguese intellectual panorama at the time. Celestino da Costa, Estrela Faria, Vieira da Silva, Abel Manta, Avelino Cunhal, Lopes Graça, António Pedro, among others. It is this same António Pedro who, in 1946, invites Cutileiro to come to his studio to draw. During this experience, which lasted two years, the sculptor took the opportunity to make contact with artists, sculptors and critics interested in Surrealism . Between 1949 and 1951, Cutileiro attends Jorge Barradas' studio, where he models, paints and executes ceramic glazing. Bored with this experience, he moved to António Duarte's atelier, where he spent the next two years as a volunteer assistant on a construction site. It is during this period that the initiation of Cutileiro to stone takes place, as his work in António Duarte's atelier was to enlarge the models of the master stonecutter (Master José), put them in plaster and translate these plasters into marble. With António Duarte, Cutileiro also learned that he should never divide his artistic production into, on the one hand, academic-official pieces (as a source of his income) and, on the other, works made for his exclusive personal pleasure.
At the age of fourteen, in 1951, Cutileiro held his first solo exhibition, held in Reguengos de Monsaraz (Alto Alentejo), in a sewing machine shop, showing pieces of sculpture, ceramics, watercolors and paintings.
João Cutileiro studied at Colégio Valsassina where, influenced by his friends and the atmosphere he breathed in at home, he decided to join MUD JUVENIL. Its political face shows up again later, in the 60s, when Cutileiro passes through the Communist Party: he enters and quickly leaves, because the "cell" to which he belonged was dismantled and contacts were lost.
In 1951, on his way to Kabul (Afghanistan), where his father was working for a year, João Cutileiro passed through Florence, where he came into contact with the work of Michelangelo. It was a vision that he never forgot and that made him more certain that he wanted to focus on Sculpture (a certainty he had at the age of six, when he carved a nativity scene). On his return from Kabul, he enrolled at the Escola Superior de Belas Artes in Lisbon (ESBAL), being his teacher Leopoldo de Almeida.
Attending ESBAL for just two years, 1953-1954, was enough to prove to him what he had long suspected: in Portugal any research was carried out and bronze was the only material considered "worthy" for sculpture. There was no room for creativity and experimentalism , which so characterize his artistic personality. Feeling constrained by the Portuguese mentality, Cutileiro decides to leave the country. He is then taken by the hand of Paula Rego to the London-based Slade School of Art.
During the course he took in London, between 1955-59, Cutileiro not only enriched his training, but also developed his experience. Of great importance at this stage was Reg Butler, his master of sculpture. In the year that Slade ended, Cutileiro received three awards: composition, figure and head.
In London, where he remained for most of his time, even after graduating, Cutileiro marries for the first time, gets divorced and marries a second time, and from this second marriage Tiago and João, his two children, were born. At that time Cutileiro went through a difficult period, not only due to economic circumstances but also because he became aware that he had to cut the umbilical cord that kept him very attached to his great master (Reg Butler). His search for his own path resulted in his first articulated figures (1964).
In 1966 Cutileiro began using electric machines for cutting stone, which allowed him to dedicate himself exclusively to marble. Then, successively , the torsos, landscapes, boxes, trees and flowers begin to appear. Between 1961 and 1971, Cutileiro exhibited five times in Lisbon and once in Porto.
The year of his definitive return to Portugal was 1970. The place chosen to live was Lagos, in the Algarve, where he stayed for another fifteen years of his life. It is in the atelier in Lagos that Cutileiro strives to build his first bifid figures and the most controversial work of his entire life: the "D.Sebastião", built in the city of Lagos, in Gil Eanes square.
João Cutileiro assumes himself as a member of the intellectual bourgeois class and is aware that any social class has a pattern of taste that is its own. Thus, Cutileiro does not expect people from a different social group to like his pieces, naturally accepting the misunderstanding and criticism they are targeting. When he performed "D.Sebastião", Cutileiro received fierce critics and widespread praise. However, the praise was only given because the sculptor had put an end to the Estado Novo sculpture academism, without understanding the renewal of modern tradition and the uniqueness of the sculptor's work. In provocation, Cutileiro declared that he had abandoned artistic creation to become "a maker of decorative objects intended for the intellectual bourgeoisie of the West". With this ironic phrase, which Cutileiro compares to Socrates' "I only know that I know nothing", he wanted to ridicule all those who despised his sculpture or who believed themselves to be more sculptors than he. Because, according to him, all art has a decorative function, therefore, all sculptors are manufacturers of decorative objects, not realizing why these sculptors are astonished.
In 1971, the sculptor won an honorable mention at the Soquil Prize, in Lisbon. In 1976 and 1977, his sculptures and mosaics were presented in Wuppertal, Germany. This was followed by exhibitions in Évora (1979, 1980 and 1981) and in Dortmund, Germany, in 1980. This year was also marked by an exhibition in Washington (USA) and another at the National Society of Fine Arts (Lisbon). In 1981 Cutileiro participated in the Stone Sculpture Symposium (held in Évora) and in an exhibition held at the Jones Gallery, in New York.
The blood that runs in Cutileiro's veins is all Alentejo. Maybe that's why, in 1985, the sculptor decided to move to Évora. In this city, in his own home, much of the sculptor's multifaceted work is exposed. Daily contact with the things he produces allows him to systematically analyze what he is doing, the path to follow, what needs to be added or the excess to be removed, when he repeats a theme.
Of the various themes developed by the sculptor, that of female bodies is the most striking. "The Cutileiro's Girls", as some call them ironically, have been worth to the sculptor moments of the most distinguished glory but also of the most visible contempt.
In 1988 Cutileiro held exhibitions in Lisbon, Macau and Almansil. In 1989, he exhibited again in Lisbon and Almansil and, in 1990, he decided to make a retrospective of his art, through an ontological exhibition, held in Lisbon, at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. From this exhibition, he was left disappointed to see only a small part of his work shown and the bitter understanding that he could never fulfill the dream of bringing together, at once, everything he produced over time.
In 1992 and 1993, master Cutileiro once again held more individual exhibitions, in Brussels, Almansil, Luxembourg, Évora, Lisbon, Guimarães and Lagos. In the following years, other exhibitions followed.
Despite the sculptor having conquered an enviable place in the panorama of Portuguese sculpture and his works are very coveted today, after "D.Sebastião", very few monuments of Cutileiro were publicly erected. It is as if the aesthetic conservatism privileged by the Estado Novo was still alive in Portuguese statuary art.