This atmospheric image is an etching from the early 1890s showing Brighton’s Metropole Hotel at dusk. Gas lights line the promenade and the bridge to the West Pier, creating silhouettes of people enjoying an evening walk. Look closely and you can see horse-drawn carriages on the right, perhaps waiting for business from the large hotels on the seafront. The West Pier is just visible on the left. It is one of many etchings of Brighton, Hove and Sussex by Robert Charles Goff, an artist based in Hove for many years.
Goff enjoyed travelling and led a deliberately peripatetic life, finding subjects for his art in Britain, Italy, Egypt, Japan, Holland and Switzerland. His etchings and paintings earned him an international reputation during his lifetime. He had two distinct careers: born to Irish parents in 1837 he became a professional soldier before he was 18. By the early 1870s he had risen to the rank of honorary Colonel. He retired from the army in 1878, married the same year, and settled in London for a while, before spending long periods in Hove, Italy and Switzerland. From around 1892 he lived in 15 Adelaide Crescent, and later took up a studio in Holland Road. Goff left Hove in 1903 to live in Florence but kept his studio here until the end of his life.
At some point in the twentieth century, Brighton Museum acquired the contents of his studio. This gives a remarkable insight into the work and working methods of an etcher in the late 19th and early 20th century. A selection of his work, including many local views, will be on display in a new exhibition in the Prints and Drawings Gallery of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery from 29 November 2011 until 29 April 2012.
Alexandra Loske, Researcher and Guide at the Royal Pavilion