Thomas Cooper Gotch was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, and worked in his family’s boot and shoe business before embarking on his artistic career. He was an art student towards the end of the 19th century, a time of radical ideas and social change.
Gotch studied at Heatherley’s Art School, Ecole des Beaux Arts in Antwerp, Slade School of Fine Art and Laurens Atelier, Paris.
The artist’s work can be categorised into two sections – the Newlyn years and the late PreRaphaelite years. A trip to Florence in 1891 inspired him towards an iconographical, symbolic painting style influenced by early Italian and Flemish art. In these paintings the artist dealt with themes such as child pictures, of joyous youth and women and motherhood. Of these, probably his most famous work is Alleluia, painted in 1896 (Tate Britain).
He gained a huge following and his paintings were bought by public galleries and private collectors alike. These elaborate pictures are a blend of Pre-Raphaelitism and the Italian Renaissance which are classed as imaginative symbolism. Imaginative symbolism was regarded as the rarest form of the Modern School of Painting in England; it deals with the expression of abstractions rather than the realisation of facts.
Gotch’s work became less popular after the war even though he continued to paint in a variety of styles. He travelled widely on the continent – living in France and visiting Italy and Skagen, Denmark – and collections of his work in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa bear witness to his strong links with the Commonwealth countries.
Gotch died suddenly on 1st May 1931, having come to London for ‘varnishing day’ at the Royal Academy where he was exhibiting. A memorial exhibition was held in Kettering the following year.
The works of Thomas Cooper Gotch have been widely exhibited at many major galleries including Royal Academy, Royal College of Art and the Paris Salon.