A son of a Northamptonshire shoe factory owner, the English painter and book illustrator Thomas Cooper Gotch or “T.C.” Gotch (1854–1931) operated on the margins of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and is perhaps the movement’s most unsung exponent.
With his father’s help Gotch studied at all the very best schools. He studied art at Heatherley’s in London, then in Antwerp before returning to Britain to study at London’s Slade where he met Caroline Burland Yates, the youngest daughter of a wealthy Liverpool property owner.
After returning to Britain the couple settled into the Newlyn art colony in Cornwall and married there on 31 August 1881. Gotch and Caroline then studied in Paris together at the reknowned Académie Julian. Returning to Newlyn once more, they eventually built a family home there which they named Wheal Betsy.
In Newlyn, like the other colonists, Gotch adopted a French-influenced naturalist approach – the painting plein-air outdoors style learn in Paris continued on the Cornish coast. Intially he made paintings of natural, pastoral settings. Dissatisfied with a distinct lack of success as a painter of Cornish life, in 1891 Gotch traveled to France, Switzerland, and Italy, wintering in Florence, soaking in the Renaissance art. Subsequently he changed his style. His new work was enigmatic, symbolic and free. He totally immersed himself now in the romantic, Pre-Raphaelite style for which he is now best known.
Gotch eventually became a recognized contributor to turn-of-the-century art by re-introducing into his work academic realist detail, tightly painted surfaces, and bright colours, along with a Symbolist subject matter focused primarily on children.
His only daughter, Phyllis Marion Gotch – a redhead like her father who became a singer & an author – was often a model for his colourful depictions of young girls and featured in most of his most celebrated work.
Gotch was about style and emotion. He relied on overall atmospheric mood, painterly effects and symbolic/stylistic/allegorical reference, not simply tightly polished technical detail to create his dreamy aesthetic.