James Goatcher was an artist and theatre scene painter and designer. He was born in Philadelphia, USA, the son of Englishman Phillip William Goatcher, a highly regarded theatre scene painter, and his wife Margaret n_e Healy. After his parents separated Goatcher and his father arrived in Sydney in 1890 where Phillip had a lucrative contract with the theatrical manager J. C. Williamson. James, who was apprenticed to his father as a scene painter, also worked for J. C. Williamson. He attended part time art classes in Sydney and Melbourne when ever he could. The Melbourne Art Gallery School was one institution he attended. He claimed to have shared 'digs’ with the Lindsay brothers.

He moved to Western Australia in 1906 with his father to set up to an art decorator business. The studio was in Gordon Street, West Perth. He worked for Wunderlich in Sydney designing patterns for pressed metal. He was a member of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales and of the West Australian Society of Arts, serving as its its vice-president in 1952. Goatcher was not invited to be a member of the Perth Society of Artists as he was in 'trade’ having been President of the Master Painters Society. He rarely painted until his retirement.

Goatcher held solo exhibitions in the Newspaper House Gallery each year from 1944 to 1954. A review of the 1944 exhibition stated that, “[w]hile the artist’s style may be considered conservative or even old-fashioned by those who pin their faith in such techniques of those of Benson, Marshall Clifton, or the abstract renderings of Elise Burleigh (sic), the fact remains that his choice of subject, skilful brushwork and sound drawing will rightly compel the admiration of many people.” In 1949 he exhibited an oil painting of Leura Gap and a watercolour of the Three Sisters with the West Australian Society of Arts. He won the watercolour section of the Claude Hotchin Art Prize in 1950 with Clouds over the Valley. He also exhibited oils and watercolours in the Art Competition at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in 1950 and 1953. In 1952 he exhibited a watercolour Sandy Beach Tasmania and an oil painting, Avon River, with the West Australian Society of Arts.

Goatcher continued to exhibit with the society until 1956 and his works apparently sold well. He died in 1957. Charles Hamilton wrote in “An Unassuming Artist” that “The reason for the popularity of James Goatcher’s pictures is not far to seek. In the first place, his conventional outlook and treatment are easy to understand, his choice of subject is pleasing, his composition simple, and his colour quiet and harmonious. His realistic treatment of landscape suits the man in the street who likes to be shown what he feels to be true.”


Dr Dorothy Erickson
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