ENTRY: Gotch, Thomas Cooper
Thomas Cooper Gotch (b. 1854 in Kettering, d. 1931 in London) was an English Pre-Raphaelite
painter and book illustrator.
Gotch came from a middle-class business family who were also distinguished scholars
and artists. He was sent to a local art school, went to Antwerp (Ecole des Beaux Arts)
and Paris (J.P. Laurens), then studied at The Slade in London (1878-1880). In 1881
at age 26, after a long engagement, he married fellow art student Caroline Burland Yates (1854-1945).
After varied and energetic world travel, he became more and more involved with the
fractious politics around the resistance to the domination of the Royal Academy of
Art, and was a founder member of the New English Art Club.
Gotch and his wife settled at the Newlyn artists' colony in Cornwall, from around
1887, although they had previously visited as early as 1880. There he founded the
Newlyn Industrial Classes, where the local youth could learn the arts & crafts.
He also helped to set up the Newlyn Art Gallery, and served on its committee all his life.
He founded (1887) and later served as President (1913-1928) of the Royal British Colonial
Society of Artists. Among his friends in Newlyn were fellow artists Stanhope Forbes and
Albert Chevallier Tayler.
His beloved only daughter, Phyllis Marian Gotch (born France 1882), made the young
Gotch family a mainstay of the Newlyn social-scene. She and her circle of friends
(used by Gotch as models) inspired the stories of H.D. Lowry. Phyllis later
became a writer and singer, and married around 1913.
He had an elder brother, John Alfred Gotch, a successful architect, architecture
scholar and antiquarian writer.
Thomas Cooper Gotch appears to have been buried at Newlyn.
In Newlyn he worked first at painting local scenes in the then-fashionable realist manner.
But even these often had a romantic edge, such as The Wizard or an obvious love of surface colour.
In 1891 a visit to Florence, Italy, opened his eyes to the work of the romantic European
symbolists. He took the brave step of changing his style, to make romantic decorative
paintings, when the prevailing fashion was against him. His first work in this new style
was "My Crown and Sceptre" (1892), which was the progenitor to his most well-known work
"The Child Enthroned" (1894). The latter, on original exhibition, was hailed by The
Times newspaper as the star of that year's Royal Academy show. Until that time, his
new style of work had drawn much critical scorn.
He painted various subejcts including religious Christian scenes, history painting, portraits, and a few landscapes.
His best-known paintings, which form the bulk of his work, usually portray girl-children
in ornate classical or medievalist dress. The appearance of the girls in his paintings
is often noted as being very modern. Gotch was a close and lifelong friend of
Henry Scott Tuke, whose work featured a parallel focus on the boy-child. Gotch's
life-long adoration of the beautiful girl-child was shared by other Victorian
giants such as John Ruskin and Lewis Carroll.
His emotionally-charged work was immensely popular and critically acclaimed for
most of his life, although interest in neo-romanticism waned after the First
World War and he turned to watercolours of flowers. He also illustrated books,
such as Round About Wiltshire, The Land of Pardons (an early study of Breton
folklore & Celtic Christianity), and contributed illustrations to
school readers such as Highroads of Literature.
A retrospective show was held in Newcastle in 1910, and a memorial exhibition in Kettering in 1931.
Much of his work has survived, and much is still in England; but has never been collected in
a print edition. Manuscripts relating his life & work are in the care of the Victoria
and Albert Museum, London. The Alfred East Gallery in Kettering has a substantial
collection of his work, but only a small part of it is on permanent display.
The gallery sells a small 32-page booklet on Gotch.
There was a show in 2001, "T.C. Gotch: The Last of the Pre-Raphaelites" at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.
Selected list of paintings:
The Wizard (notable early work)
The Orchard (1887) (notable early work)
My Crown and Sceptre (1892)
The Child Enthroned (1894)
Portrait of Phyllis Gotch in Blue (198?)
The Pageant of Children (1895)
Dawn of Womanhood (1900)
The Message (1903)
The Return From The Pageant (1907)
Further reading: Baldry, A.L. "The Work of T.C. Gotch", The Studio, Vol.13, March 1898, pages 73-82.
Lomax, Pamela. The Golden Dream: A Biography of Thomas Cooper Gotch (Sansom & Company, 2004) (120 pages, paperback).
Made in Staffordshire, England. © 2007.
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