Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
The artistic heart of West Cornwall's history

Girl in a Cornish Garden, 1887

Oil on canvas. Private collection.

Thomas Cooper Gotch

1854 - 1931

Although he was a leading figure amongst the core Newlyn School painters, Tom Gotch soon abandoned rural realist narrative painting for a more stylised 'Pre-Raphaelite' approach, to which he seems to have been better suited.



Thomas Cooper Gotch - 1854 - 1931

Born in Kettering in Northamptonshire, ‘Tom’ Gotch left school to work at his family’s boot & shoe business before embarking on his artistic career. He began his formal art training at Heatherley’s Art School in 1876, aged 21, and entered the Slade in 1879 where he became a close friend of the painter Henry Scott Tuke.

At the instigation of his future wife, fellow artist and Slade student, Caroline Burland Yates, Gotch and Tuke first visited Newlyn in 1879. Tom and Carrie returned to marry at St Peter’s Church in Newlyn in 1881, but then both resumed their studies in Paris at Julian’s and Lauren’s Academies and they did not become resident in Newlyn until 1887.

At first Gotch adopted the Newlyners’ ‘rural realist’ style, but in 1891 they wintered in Florence which marked a change in the style of his work to incorporate a ‘joyous sense of colour’. Many of his later works are influenced by the resurgence of interest in mediaevalism and resemble Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Of these, probably his most famous work is Alleluia 1896 (Tate Britain).

Gotch frequently used local models in his works, including his own daughter, Phyllis, who was famed in later life for her leading role in stopping the Newlyn ‘slum clearances’. Gotch also modelled for his artist friends, and is the model for King Arthur in Elizabeth Forbes’ illustrated book King Arthur’s Wood.

For further information, see 'The Golden Dream: A Biography of Thomas Cooper Gotch', Pamela Lomax, published by Sansom & Co.