From a family of artists, Claude was brother to the artist Charles, and a grandson of Thomas Leeson Rowbotham. He opened his studio at Upton Slip in about 1896 in Falmouth, and lived at Trevelyan, 6 Woodlane Terrace.
Best known for his aquatints based on travels around the country and abroad (Cornwall, Devon, Lake District, Italy, Yorkshire and Scotland), he first employed young women to hand-colour his prints but later invented a colour printing process. This he partially described in a lecture at the RCPS reprinted in the RCPS Proceedings for 1916.
In 1910 he also exhibited at the RCPS in the watercolour section, and was considered to have a fine talent. The family left Falmouth in 1919 for Berkshire where he continued his work. Rowbotham is a good example of an artist who is never noticed in the reference books as having an established presence in West Cornwall.
A recent correspondent (2012) has identified and described two lovely miniature paintings as exhibiting delicate and great detail, entitled (in pencil) 'At Portscatho' and 'St Just in Roseland'. She had purchased these some years ago at a sale in Wigtown, Scotland.
Another correspondent (2013) has listed the paintings held in their private collection: 'I have six watercolours signed and dated by the above named artist. All are scenes of Cornwall and apart from one have titles as follows: Storm Lelant Cornwall 1909, Evening Mylor Bridge Falmouth 1904, Falmouth Harbour 1909, Kynance Cove Cornwall 1901, Sunset St Mawes Cornwall 1909. The untitled one is signed and dated 1907.' Adding to these findings is yet another (2013) who writes from France to say about A Break in the Clouds - Lizard Downs: 'I should like to inform you that I have the above-named work by Claude Rowbotham in my possession. It was bought by my father probably in the 1950s. It is signed in pencil, undated, measures 3.5 by 2 ins (without the surround) and well preserved. A real little gem.'
This must be the year for discovering CR all over again, as a correspondent from Australia writes: 'I have just purchased an undated, framed and signed 3.5" x 2.25" etching of Mapledurham Mill by above artist, a long way from home here in Tasmania, Australia. Sadly the surround has suffered some slight water damage but that can be fixed!
From Hastings has come the following in (2015): I was given by my aunt some years ago a picture by
Claude Rowbotham which says on the back: "Original Aquatint" by Claude H. Rowbotham. Edition Strictly Limited to 100 signed Artists' Proofs." It is signed under the aquatint and entitled, "Drying the Nets, Cadgwith".
Now in 2016 we have an additional reference to a Cornish watercolour by the artist: "I was interested to read about the information on the artist Claude Rowbotham. I have a watercolour of his which is of Gweek on the Helford and is signed and dated 1897. I inherited it from my father. My father remembers this watercolour hanging in the drawing room of Menheniot vicarage, near Liskeard.... My father was born 1920 so he would recall it from the late 1920's. It also has the original framers label: T. Solomon & Co, Artists Colourmen, Gilders & Picture-frame Makers of 19, King St, Truro. It was refurbished in 1979 but has remained in the same family, probably since original purchase and has only been outside Cornwall for a very short time when I lived in Rutland for five years. I have recently returned to Cornwall and it now hangs on the wall here only a few miles from Gweek."
A correspondent in 2017 has advised us of two limited edition signed artist's proofs in her possession: 'Near Perranporth, Cornwall' and 'Crabbing, Falmouth Beach'. She describes these original aquatints as 'absolute gems, the work is so delicate'. They were bought from a shop in Massachusetts. USA.
A 2018 correspondent has told us of an 8" x 10" aquatint by Rowbotham entitled 'Elter Water and the Langdale Pikes', purchased in the UK.
We were contacted in 2019 by a correspondent in Australia who has purchased a limited edition aquatint signed by Rowbotham entitled 'Chester - the Cathedral'. A further correspondent in 2019 has told us of eight small aquatints which may have been purchased by his grandfather who spent many painting holidays in Crackington Haven, north Cornwall.
A correspondent in the USA (2020) has been in touch with the news that he has an aquatint by Rowbotham entitled 'Misty Night, Percuil Ferry', one of a limited edition of 100.
In 2021 we were contacted by a correspondent who has in her possession a small original aquatint signed by Rowbotham and entitled 'Washing Day - a Court in Fowey'. She believes it would have been bought by her grandfather in Melbourne, Australia, in the 1920s or 1930s.
A further correspondent has some fascinating information about Claude Rowbotham's colourists, mentioned in the second paragraph (above) of this biography. He is the adopted son of one of them, Helen Duguid Spurgin nee Watt, and knew her sisters Hazeline Mary Watt and Emily Watt. The three sisters, who were born around 1900, operated the artist's secret process. Two other sisters, Gwendoline and Caroline, may not have been involved. These young women, whose father was James Watt, a timekeeper at Falmouth Docks, and whose mother was Emily nee Mitchell from Newquay, lived at 33 Wellington Terrace. The studio was in The Bosun's Locker (now a chandlery).
It is excellent to know that this artist's work is still be bought and treasured, and also how important art is in people's lives.
Painter of aquatints and watercolours
works and access
Works include: St Michael's Mount; Cottage at Cadgwith; Steeple Rock, Kynance; Lion Rock Kynance Cove; At Feock, Cornwall; HMS Cambridge entering Falmouth to be broken up; Falmouth harbour from Pendennis; Gathering Seaweed; Blackberry Castle Drive; Falmouth Dawn; Falmouth Harbour; A Break in the Clouds; Lizard down St Michael's Mount; Artist's Home, Swanpool, Falmouth; St Ives Fishing Boats; Rainy Sunset; Passing showers; Goonhilly Downs off St Ives; Cornfield above St Mawes; Butterfly Boats, Falmouth; The Flush of Dawn; Falmouth Harbour; Low Tide Carbis Bay; Evening Sunlight, Falmouth Harbour; Beach Combers, Falmouth; St Ives Fishing Fleet in Carbis Bay; Rain On Pennance Point; Planting Oysters; Penryn River; Noah's Ark, Fowey; The Bar Pool, Falmouth; At Porthoustock; Washing Day; A Flushing Slipway; Quay Punts, Falmouth; Low tide, St Ives Harbour; The Afterglow near Portreath, Cornwall; Early Morning, Falmouth; A Breezy Morning, Falmouth; Paddington at Portscatho; The Deserted Valley; Abandoned Tin Mines near Redruth; Sunrise, Porthustock; The path of gold off St Ives; Luxylyan Falls near Fowey; The Shades of Evening; St Ives Fishing Fleet; On Lelant Marshes, Cornwall; In Falmouth harbour; Submarine Pier, Falmouth; Cottages at Porthoustock; Helford Creek
Access to Work: Falmouth Art Gallery
At Portscatho; St Just in Roseland (private collection)
A Break in the Clouds - Lizard Downs (private collection, France)
Mapledurham Mill (private collection, Australia)
RCPS 1910; Doré (Solo); Dudley Gallery; Walker's, London 1921 (Solo)
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (p343)
Johnson & Greutzner
Price & Tonkin: RCPS
Wood Victorian Painters