Thomas Cooper Gotch was an English Pre-Raphaelite painter and book illustrator, and one of the first of the ‘Newlyn School’ artists to arrive from London. Like the French plein air painters, he sought to capture the effects of light and atmosphere with a rugged, square edged brush. As Stanhope Alexander Forbes explained: it was a breath of fresh air in the tired atmosphere of the studios, and painters began to see that it needed more than an occasional visit to the country to get to the heart of its mysteries; that he who wished to solve them must live amongst the scenes he sought to render and become thoroughly familiarised with every aspect of nature … most of us … set up our easels in country districts, where we could pose our models and attack our work, in sunshine or in shadow, under the open sky (1).
In Newlyn, Gotch painted local scenes in the then-fashionable realist manner, albeit with his own romantic edge. A visit to Florence, Italy in 1891 introduced him to the work of the romantic European symbolists and inspired him to change to a more romantic decorative style. He painted portraits, Christian scenes, history paintings, and landscapes. The paintings for which he is best known, however, are those of young girls usually dressed in ornate garb, a subject matter often noted to be very modern for his time.
(1) Caroline Fox, and Francis Greenacre, Artists of the Newlyn School (1880-1900). Newlyn Orion Galleries Limited, 1979, page 12.
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