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 (nee Johnson), is rightly recognised as one of the most successful, historically significant and prolific female British artists of all time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1961 her husband Harold Knight died and 9 years later, on the 7th of July 1970, Laura died at Langford Place, London.
On Dame Laura Knight RA