Explore the gallery...

By Artist

Click here for a full list of artists
By Medium
By Date
By Keyword

Click here for a full list of keywords
Telephone: 0131 226 6932 or 0845 388 5879
46 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3NH, Scotland

Biography and current catalogue for

Alexander Ignatius Roche RSA NEAC RP (1861-1921) 

Born at Gallowgate in Glasgow on 17th August 1861, the son of a milliner, Alexander Roche was schooled at St Mungo’s Academy and then attended some classes at the Glasgow School of Art while working in an architect's office. His real art training came in Paris, where he studied for several years from 1881, under Boulanger and Lefebvre at Julien’s and later under Gerome at l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts. While in Paris he met several other Scottish students including William Kennnedy, (Sir) John Lavery and Thomas Millie Dow, along with Dow’s mentor, William Stott of Oldham. Together they painted at Grez-Sur-Loing, just south of Fontainebleau, all influenced by Bastien-Lepage (1848-84) and the plein-airistes. In 1885 Roche returned to Glasgow where he painted a number of romantic idylls of girls in gardens, interiors or in landscape, such as
The Dominie’s (schoolmaster) Favourites exhibited at the Glasgow Institute in 1885, No. 591, which was priced at the great sum of £250 and The Shepherdess (exhibited to acclaim at the RA 1890). He moved to a cottage on the banks of the Luggie in Dunbartonshire and there some of his best landscapes were painted.

Most of 1888 was spent in Capri, where he was associated with a cosmopolitan group of artists including Fabio Fabbi and Harold Speed. Two further trips to Italy followed, to Florence and Venice, in the early 1890s when he painted peasants in the Sabine Hills. In Florence, he met and married an Italian girl, but the marriage was not to last.

In 1896 Roche moved to Edinburgh and began to paint portraits and figure studies. His sense of colour and confident brushwork were well suited to portraiture and in his later years this became his main output and source of income. He spent some time in the USA, fulfilling portrait commissions and seeking others. Among his lucrative commissions was a group portrait for Andrew Carnegie, then the world’s richest man, of his wife Louise (nee Whitfield) and their daughter, Margaret.

He won a gold medal at Munich 1891, an Hon. Mention at the Paris Salon 1892 and a gold medal at Dresden 1897. Elected ARSA 1894 and RSA 1900, he exhibited at the RSA from 1887 - 1976 and at the RA from 1890 - 1919. Roche was considered a member of the Glasgow School, but after the late 1880s he drifted to the fringes of the movement. In 1906, he remarried, to Jean, daughter of the animal painter Robert Alexander and sister of Edwin, the flower and animal painter. All four shared a friendship with Joseph Crawhall, together with a love of Tangier. They lived from 1907 until the outbreak of the Great War at 8 Royal Terrace in Edinburgh, coincidentally just two doors from the Calton Gallery’s home for 23 years at No. 10…. Around this time he was struck with a cerebral haemorrhage which paralysed his right hand. He taught himself to paint with his left and was later to produce some of his best landscapes (McEwan).

The Roches later bought a house, Hailes Cottage in the village of Slateford, by the Water of Leith, to the south west Edinburgh, where he died, on 10th March 1921, aged 59.