Friday, May 18, 2007

Thomas Cooper Gotch

This evening R and I went to the cinema and saw half of an abysmal film - so bad we left half-way through, something we have only ever done once before. Instead we jumped in the car and drove down to the sea-front for a walk.

The weather here has turned warm and humid but not unplesantly so. It was glorious to be able to walk along the waterfront in shirt sleeves in the dark. I love the old harbour walls and fortifications of Portsmouth. There is something so redolent about them, calling to mind a deep, long history. There are parts of The Point where, especially in the dark, where one can almost see the Press Gang waiting round the corner. And to stand on the Hot Walls and watch one of the massive continental ferries leaving, a blaze of lights, coming away from the city like a piece has broken off. So close to the shore that you can smell the diesel - that's one of my favourite things. Suffice it to say, a lovely evening.

However, also not such a bad day. This below was found for a few pounds in a bookshop today. I bought it only because the name seemed familiar. As well it might I discovered when I got home. A small, gouache design for a Happy New Year greeting and with it a note saying 'Designed and executed by Thos. Cooper Gotch Xmas 1873'. If it is what it claims to be then it could be a very interesting piece indeed. Gotch was a pre-Raphaelite of some repute whose full-scale paintings would set you back many thousands of pounds today. He was also the founder of the Newlyn Industrial School, a mainstay of the 'arts and crafts' movement.

If this is as it claims to be then it would be a very interesting if ephemeral piece by him. I have no other provenance but there are a number of things which I think make it very plausible. The date would make Gotch only 19 at the time of composition which was a year before he began his formal art training - this would certainly account for the fact that it has the air of a very talented amateur about it. The style is absolutely right. There is a painted monogram on the verso which is done in gothic lettering - I don't know what signature or monogram Gotch used in later life but the one here has the definite feel of a young man's enjoyment of marking his work - who hasn't experimented as a teenager with numerous versions of one's own signature. There is residue also on the verso from this piece having been stuck in an album, the same residue is also present on the back of the note and, given that the handwriting on the note is absolutely correct for the end of the nineteenth century, this would seem at least to indicate that the drawing is of the correct age. Finally, Gotch married a Hampshire woman and therefore had connections and family here - the piece was found in a Hampshire bookshop. All in all, I'm very content to say this is by Gotch and I can't yet make up my mind whether to sell or keep...

1 comment:

John C said...

Ye gods, I'm amazed you can turn up something like that. We don't have any shops round here that would sell items like that anymore, but then you have to know what to look for as well. I'm fairly au fait with the PRB but wouldn't have recognised that name at all.

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