Alexander Roche was born in Glasgow. After attending classes at Glasgow School of Art, he studied in Paris and joined the Scottish colony of artists at Grez-sur-Loing in the early 1880s. On his return to Scotland he was associated with the Glasgow Boys. A trip to Italy in the early 1890s reinforced his taste for rustic subjects. He moved to Edinburgh in 1896 where he concentrated on portraiture, travelling as far afield as the United States to carry out commissions.