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Robert Charles Goff: Artist

Posted in Art, Artist on Friday, 29 July 2011

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Robert Charles Goff was a printmaker and painter who specialised in topographical scenes.

picture, Robert Charles Goff, painter, artist, Piazza S Lorenzo, Tuscanny

A scenic painting by Robert Charles Goff of the Piazza S. Lorenzo with the statue of Giovanni delle Bande Nere

Goff was born in Ireland on 28 July 1837, the son of George Goff and his wife Elizabeth (nee Holmes). He obtained a commission from the 50th Queen’s Own in July 1855 shortly before his eighteenth birthday. He proceeded to the Crimea where he became adjutant of his regiment and fought until the end of the campaign.

Goff continued to have an active military service in Ceylon before going to Staff College and joining the 15th Foot, serving on the Staff at Malta and Portsmouth as A.D.C. to Sir William Ridley and, later, Lord Templetown. After moving to the Coldstream Guards he was promoted to colonel in March 1878 and retired later in the year after his marriage to Beatrice Teresa, daughter of Baron Testaferrata-Abels of the Maltese nobility. They had one son who died young. Having lost his wife also, in January 1899, Goff married Clarissa Catherine Larpent, daughter of the eighth Baron de Hochepied-Larpent, whose sister, Reta, was the wife of another painter and etcher, G. P. Jacomb-Hood.

Goff had learned the process of etching from a fellow officer and etched over 200 plates. He also painted a great many watercolours which were used as illustrations in books such as Florence and Some Tuscan Cities (1905) and Assisi of Saint Francis (1908), both written by his wife.

His etchings and paintings of views in England and Continental Europe earned him an international reputation. Goff was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1887 and was an honourary member of the academies of Milan and Florence. His artwork was regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy and other major institutions. An obituary for Goff records: “No artist without professional training has turned out so much excellent work, and few etchers, if any, have drawn their subjects from so wide an area, or maintained their standards so far into old age.”

In British Etchers 1850-1940, Kenneth Guichard says of him: “Colonel Goff was one of the first British etchers to explore the revolutionary aspects of Whistler’s etched art. During the late nineteenth century Whistler’s etchings explored modern concerns by hinting and persuading, rather than describing. His almost calligraphic economy of statement caused etchers to explore different avenues of expression. This is clearly seen in The Tower Bridge, where Goff delineates the manner in which the eye focuses on either the foreground or the background. Hence the strong contrasts between these two areas and the almost sketchy nature of the foreground boats and the vessels in the Thames. The Tower Bridge is thus an early and important exploration of these elements.”

Goff travelled extensively, maintaining homes in London and Brighton. He moved around the end of the century to a villa overlooking Florence where he remained until the war and increasing age led him to move to Villa Valerie, Bellaria, Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, where he died on 30 June 1922. He was survived by his wife, Clarissa.

Many more paintings by Robert Charles Goff can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

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