Dame Laura Knight, RA - Collections Gems

Bridgeman Images is honoured to administer and license the copyright of Dame Laura Knight, DBE RA RWS and Harold Knight, RA on behalf of the trustees of the two Estates. 

 

Dame Laura Knight 

Self Portrait, c 1921 / Private Collection / Estate of Dame Laura Knight / Bridgeman Images
Self Portrait, c 1921 / Private Collection / Estate of Dame Laura Knight / Bridgeman Images

 

Dame Laura Knight (nee Johnson), is rightly recognised as one of the most successful, historically significant and prolific female British artists of all time. 

 

Sundown, c.1955 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Wolverhampton Art Gallery, West Midlands, UK / Bridgeman Images

 

Storm Over Our Town (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images

 

Dame Laura Knight has been The First in so many different ways that have made history: the first woman to be elected Royal Academician in 1934 (and later, in 1953, she was elected Senior Royal Academician, again the first woman to receive the honour), the only woman to be given War Commissions in the Two World Wars, the first female artist to be made a Dame of the British Empire, the first woman to have had a retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy, the only British artist commissioned to cover the Nuremberg Trials (at 69 years old). Last but not least, together with Harold Knight they became the first husband and wife to be Royal Academicians. 

 

Image of the painting Take Off, 1943 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Imperial War Museum, London, UK / Bridgeman Image
Take Off, 1943 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Imperial War Museum, London, UK / Bridgeman Image

 

Image of the painting A Balloon Site, Coventry, 1943 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Imperial War Museum, London, UK / Bridgeman Images
A Balloon Site, Coventry, 1943 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Imperial War Museum, London, UK / Bridgeman Images

 

Laura Knight was always on the hunt for new subjects, which in addition to Staithes and Cornwall include: the theatre, ballet, glamour girls and ladies, landscapes, portraits, War Commissions, the circus (with all its players and characters, she even toured the South Coast of England with Carmos Circus), Gypsies, Animals, horse racing (she was famously seen arriving in a Rolls-Royce to paint at the Epsom Derby driven by an undertaker friend – Mr Sully), fairgrounds and Seascapes. 

 

Derby Day, aka A Dull Day at Epsom, 1940 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight (1877-1970)  © Arthur Ackermann Ltd., London / Bridgeman Images
Derby Day, aka A Dull Day at Epsom, 1940 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight (1877-1970)  © Arthur Ackermann Ltd., London / Bridgeman Images

 

Laura Knight used all sorts of media like oil and watercolours, many different kinds of print techniques (soft etchings - aquatints - drypoint - mezzotint - linocut -woodcut - lithographs) she worked on Posters for London Transport, Charities, Railway companies, Public Galleries, she worked at Ballet costume designs for Stanislas ldjikowski, she designed glassware and ceramics for Clarice Cliff and she even worked on special designs for Cadburys chocolate boxes and wrappers. She also wrote three books, two autobiographies and one about the circus.

 

Image of the painting Gypsies caravans (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images
Gypsies caravans (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images

 

Image of the painting Gypsy Splendour, aka Fine Feathers, 1939 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Nottingham City Museums and Galleries (Nottingham Castle) / Bridgeman Images
Gypsy Splendour, aka Fine Feathers, 1939 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Nottingham City Museums and Galleries (Nottingham Castle) / Bridgeman Images

 

She was born on the 4th of August 1877 at Acton Road, Long Eaton, Derbyshire. After Christmas in the same year, Laura’s mother left her father, and she never met him.

 

image of Joe Craxton the Clown (charcoal & wash on paper), Laura Knight (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Bourne Gallery, Reigate, Surrey / Bridgeman Images
Joe Craxton the Clown (charcoal & wash on paper), Laura Knight (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Bourne Gallery, Reigate, Surrey / Bridgeman Images

 

Image of the painting Laugh Clown Laugh, 1929 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images
Laugh Clown Laugh, 1929 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images

 

Laura learned painting from her mother who taught at Nottingham School of Art. When she was only 13 her mother became terminally ill and Laura effectively took on her role.

 

Lily Poyser, aka The Yellow Lady, 1895 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Bonhams, London, UK / Bridgeman Images

 

She married her childhood friend, the painter Harold Knight (1874-1961) in 1903 and they re-joined the Staithes artists colony where they had been living since 1897.

There are not many works of Laura Knight surviving from her time in Staithes and even less from her days in Nottingham. The Staithes works are very embryonic examples of her work, as money was tight, she painted mostly in watercolour there. However, the work is very charming. 

 

Image of the painting In the Orchard, 1908-09 (pencil & w/c), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Courtesy Patrick Bourne & Co., London / Bridgeman Images
In the Orchard, 1908-09 (pencil & w/c), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Courtesy Patrick Bourne & Co., London / Bridgeman Images

 

She loved the local people and depicted their daily life in a low-ceilinged, poorly lit interior with figures using muted and subtle colours. She was going through what she learnt at the Nottingham Art School, which gradually changed while coming into contact with fellow artists residing in Staithes and later with the influence from her visits with Harlod to Holland in 1903, 1905 and 1906.  

 

Image of the painting The Sun Hat, 1910 (pencil and watercolour on paper), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images
Girl Reading, aka The Sun Hat, 1910 (pencil and watercolour on paper), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images

 

Image of Bathing, c.1912 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images
Bathing, c.1912 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images

 

After moving to Cornwall in 1907 and by 1908 Laura’s style had transformed under the influence of the warm, brilliant light, dazzling blue-green seas and glorious sunny days and broke away from what she learned in Staithes and Laren. All this lifted her palette and her work to new heights. When this new work was first shown at the Royal Academy, it caused a sensation and her works started to become known internationally as well. 

 

The Bathers, 1954, Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Jonathan Cooper, Park Walk Gallery, London, UK / Bridgeman Images
The Bathers, Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Jonathan Cooper, Park Walk Gallery, London, UK / Bridgeman Images

 

Chloe, 1926-27 (black chalk and w/c on paper), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images

 

Laura was amazingly productive, painting continuously for well over 77 years and both she and Harold enjoyed critical and financial success during their life. Laura’s career culminated in 1965, where she became the first female artist to have a full retrospective exhibition of her work at the Royal Academy.

 

The Knapstrappers, c.1925 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, PA, USA / Bequest of Charlotte Dorrance Wright, 1978 / Bridgeman Images
The Knapstrappers, c.1925 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania, PA, USA / Bequest of Charlotte Dorrance Wright, 1978 / Bridgeman Images

 

A Musical Clown, 1930 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight (1877-1970) / Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, Lancashire, UK / Bridgeman Images
A Musical Clown, 1930 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight (1877-1970) / Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, Lancashire, UK / Bridgeman Images

 

In 1961 her husband Harold Knight died and 9 years later, on the 7th of July 1970, Laura died at Langford Place, London.

Studio Window, c.1935 (oil on canvas), Knight, Laura (1877-1970) / Private Collection / Photo © Christie's Images / Bridgeman Images

 

Ballet, 1936 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Lady Lever Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool / Bridgeman Images
Ballet, 1936 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Lady Lever Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool / Bridgeman Images

 

Les Sylphides, 1919 (oil on canvas), Laura Knight, (1877-1970) / Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery / © Birmingham Museums Trust / Bridgeman Images

 

Read More on Harold Knight RA

 

Sources: 

On Dame Laura Knight RA

http://www.damelauraknight.com/educational-information/bibliography-dame-laura-knight/

 
 

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