Dame Laura Knight circa 1910
4 August 1877|
Long Eaton, Derbyshire, England
|Died||7 July 1970
|Works||The Nuremberg Trial (1946)|
|Awards||Silver Medal at the 1928 Amsterdam Art Olympics|
Dame Laura Knight, DBE, RA (4 August 1877 – 7 July 1970) was an English Impressionist painter known for painting the world of London's theatre, ballet and circus as well as a war artist during the Second World War.
Early life and education
Laura Johnson was born in Long Eaton in Derbyshire to Charles and Charlotte Johnson, the youngest of three daughters. Her father died not long after her birth, and Laura grew up in a family that struggled with financial problems. In 1890 (at the age of 13), she was sent to France with the intention that she would eventually study art at a Parisian atelier.
After a short time in French schools, she returned to England. There, at the age of 13, she entered the Nottingham School of Art, one of the youngest students ever to join the school.
At school, Laura met one of the most promising students, Harold Knight (1874–1961), aged 17, and determined that the best method of learning was to copy Harold's technique. They became friends, and married in 1903. They first lived in Staithes, Yorkshire and then Laren in the Netherlands. In both places they were members of the local artists colony.
In 1907, they moved to Cornwall, staying first in Newlyn, before moving to Lamorna. Here, alongside Lamorna Birch, Alfred Munnings and Aleister Crowley, they became central figures in the Newlyn artists colony. At Lamorna, Laura Knight painted in a more Impressionist style then she had previously. The Beach (1908), widely admired both by other artists and the public, is an example of this style. Another interesting work is The Green Feather, which was painted in one day. In 1913, she made a painting that was a first for a woman artist, Self Portrait with Nude, showing herself with a nude model, fellow artist Ella Naper.
After the First World War, the Knights moved to London, where Laura met, and painted backstage, some of the most famous ballet dancers of the day, such as Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes with Lydia Lopokova and Enrico Cecchetti, and Anna Pavlova. Her most famous work dates from this period.
After a visit with her husband to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where she saw an African-American for the first time, she remarked "The babies of American darkies are among the most beautiful things in the world. In fact, to the artist there is a whole world of beauty which ought to be explored in negro life in America."
At the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Laura Knight won the Silver Medal in Painting with the painting Boxer (1917).
In 1929, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and in 1936 she became the first woman since 1769 elected to the Royal Academy. From 1933, Dame Laura and her husband became regular visitors to Malvern. They found much inspiration for their work in the Malvern Hills and in the surrounding Worcestershire countryside. A blue plaque at the Mount Pleasant Hotel on Belle Vue Terrace, Great Malvern, commemorates the time they spent in the area.
During the Second World War, Knight was an official war artist. She worked on several commissions for the Ministry of Information's War Artists' Advisory Committee, and she was one of the few British women war artists who travelled abroad. Her works during this period include In For Repairs (1941), Corporal Elspeth Henderson and Sergent Helen Turner (1941), A Balloon Site, Coventry (1942), Ruby Loftus screwing a breech-ring (1943), Take Off (1944), Factory Workshops and Land Girls, amongst many others.
She continued to paint into the 1960s. She produced over 250 works in her lifetime as well as two autobiographies, Oil Paint and Grease Paint (1936) and The Magic of a Line (1965).
She died in London on 7 July 1970, aged 92.
- 1921: Twenty-one Drawings of the Russian Ballet,
- 1923: Laura Knight: A Book of Drawings, with an introduction by Charles Marriott,
- 1936: Oil Paint and Grease Paint
- 1962: A Proper Circus Omie
- 1965: The Magic of a Line
- "The Nuremberg Trial". Laura Knight. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- Rachel Cooke (14 July 2013). "Laura Knight: Portraits – review". The Observer. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
- "The Official Dame Laura Website: Biography". Retrieved 15 January 2011.
- Tate. "Dame Laura Knight 1877–1970". Tate. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
- Penlee House Gallery & Museum. "Laura Knight 1877–1970". Penlee House Gallery & Museum. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
- Penlee House Gallery & Museum. "The Newlyn School c.1880-c.1940". Penlee House Gallery & Museum. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
- Tessa Hadley (6 July 2013). "Laura Knight:The unashamed illustrator". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- Judith Mackrell (24 June 2008). "Laura Knight at the Theatre, Lowry, Salford". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- New York Times, 3 November 1927, p. 23, column 5.
- New York Times, 2 November 1927
- "Women at war: The female British artists who were written out of history". The Independent. 8 April 2011.
- "Dame Knight, Laura, RA (1877–1970)". Canadian War Museum.
- Laura Knight. "A Ballon Site,Coventry". Retrieved 31July 2013.
- "Ruby Loftus screwing a breech-ring – Dame Laura Knight RA (1877–1970)". Canadian War Museum.
- "A Gun Girl – Ruby Loftus – Dame Laura Knight's Newport commission". Wartime Newport: The Home Front.
- Dame Laura Knight Official website. "Literature on Dame Laura Knight". Dame Laura Knight Official website. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
- The Spectator archive (24 August 1923). "Book Review for Laura Knight: A Book of Drawings". The Spectator. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
- Rosie Broadley (2013). Laura Knight Portraits. National Portrait Gallery,London. ISBN 978-1-85514-463-7.
- Elizabeth Knowles (2012). Laura Knight in the open air. Sansom & Co. ISBN 978-1-906593-65-0.
- Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa: Dame Laura Knight
- Self Portrait with Nude
- Exhibition at Penlee House, Penzance: Dame Laura Knight RA: In the Open Air: 16 June – 8 September 2012
- Official website
- Exhibition at National Portrait Gallery, London