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A study for The Child in the World offered next month at Darnley Fine Art exemplifies a favourite theme of Thomas Cooper Gotch (1854-1931) in his later years.

The artist started out as a realist painter in Cornwall’s Newlyn School, but his style changed following a trip to Italy in the early 1890s. From 1892, colour, symbolism and medievalism run through his works, as he adopted a Pre-Raphaelite style.

Allegories of childhood and virtue, often modelled by his daughter Phyllis, run through these later works. In The Child in the World, a white-robed child stands in a dragon’s den. According to dealer Adrian Pett of Darnley, the figure’s innocence allows the youth to go untouched.

“Gotch had his own take on the Pre-Raphaelite style – high-intensity detail but different subjects,” Pett says, adding that the artist painted mainly from his imagination imagination. “It took off, the Victorian public were amazed by it and he had huge interest.”

Many of Gotch’s works are now in museums (Innocence, the finished version of The Child…, is now in the Falmouth Art Gallery).

Next year buyers have the chance to snap up a few examples at Pett’s premises in London’s Cecil Court.

Thomas Cooper Gotch: The Pre-Raphaelite Years runs from January 8-26. It is the inaugural show for the two-floor showroom. For Pett, it is also a return to an artist he first encountered on childhood visits to Alfred East Gallery in Kettering, Gotch’s hometown, which has a significant collection of his works.


Clouds: Rydal Mount by Thomas Cooper Gotch, oil on canvas; signed, 16 x 20in (40 x 50cm).

Explorer's collection

At the heart of his show are 10 works from the collection of explorer and Cornwall resident Robin Hanbury-Tenison, who started buying Newlyn School paintings in 1974. Later he started amassing the Pre-Raphaelite works of Gotch, whom he said “stood head and shoulders above all the rest”. The collector acquired the group in question directly from the artist’s granddaughter.

Offered for £3000-25,000, pictures include studies for major works The Child in the World and The Child Enthroned.

One of the advantages of studies, Pett says, is that they give buyers access to major works not currently on the market. They can also be more immediate and “full of much more life” than their finished alternatives.

Works by Jane Ross, Gotch’s confidante whom he met at the Slade School, are also on offer. The gallery is also in talks to include several works on loan from public and private collections.