Thomas Cooper Gotch

Thomas Cooper Gotch (18541931) was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter and book illustrator, and brother of John Alfred Gotch the noted architect.


Thomas Gotch was born in 185in 1Lower St, Kettering. He came from a middle-class business family who were also distinguished scholars and artists. His father, Thomas Henry Gotch (born 1805) was a shoe maker; his mother Mary Ann (born 181in London Ivy Lane) married Thomas Gotch in St Saviour's Church Southwark in 1847. He was sent to a local art school, went to Antwerp (Ecole des Beaux Arts) and Paris (Jean-Paul Laurens), then studied at The Slade in London (1878-1880). In 188at 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 in France in 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 died in 193in London, and appears to have been buried at Newlyn. His painting


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 189a 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 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 lifelong 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. Today


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 and 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.



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