Gwendolyn Knight

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Gwendolyn Knight
Gwendolyn Knight.jpg
Born May 26, 1913
Bridgetown, Barbados
Died February 18, 2005(2005-02-18) (aged 91)
Seattle, Washington
Education Howard University
Harlem Community Arts Center
Known for Painting
Notable work Works Projects Administration (WPA)
Awards Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award

Gwendolyn Clarine Knight (May 26, 1913 – February 18, 2005) was an American artist who was born in Bridgetown, Barbados in the West Indies.[1]

Knight painted throughout her life but did not start seriously exhibiting her work until the 1970s. Her first retrospective was put on when she was nearly 80 years old, "Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight," at the Tacoma Art Museum in 2003.[2] Her teachers in the arts included the sculptor Augusta Savage (who obtained support for her from the Works Progress Administration) and Jacob Lawrence, whom she married in 1941 and remained married to until his death in 2000.[3] During the course of her career, she received many awards, including the National Honor Award, and two honorary doctorate degrees, from University of Minnesota and Seattle University.

With her husband, Knight founded the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation in 2000, initially to support the early careers of professional artists. When Lawrence died, Knight disbanded the original foundation and changed her will so that most of the couple's assets went to support children's programs. Today the Foundation's activities are devoted to the maintenance of a website that had been developed in 2000.[4] The U.S. copyright representative for the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation is the Artists Rights Society.[5]

Biography[edit]

Knight was born in 1913 in Barbados, West Indies. At the age of seven, her mother entrusted her to close friends with whom she immigrated to the United States. She and her foster family first lived in St. Louis, Missouri. At age 13, she and her foster family moved to Harlem (New York City), where she graduated from Wadleigh High School in 1930. From 1931-1933 she attended Howard University studying fine arts. The depression caused financial hardship causing Knight to dropout before receiving her degree. Knight subsequently returned to New York City where she was employed by the Works Projects Administration as an assistant to the muralist, Charles Alston. She continued to study art at the Harlem Community Art Center, where she was mentored by Augusta Savage. Through Savage, she met or was exposed to the work of Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Romare Bearden, Claude McKay and other artists, poets, and writers of the Harlem Renaissance.[6]

In 1934 Knight joined a Works Projects Administration (WPA) mural project where she met her future husband and fellow painter, Jacob Lawrence. The couple were married in 1941. During the 1950's the couple worked and lived in New York. Then in 1964, they traveled to Nigeria. In 1971, Lawrence accepted a position at University of Washington’s School of Art. The couple moved to Seattle, where they lived as active members of the artist community and of the city itself.[7] Knight even procured support from The National Links, Inc. for her first one woman show which was developed in 1976. This exhibit sparked a greater desire for her work and the acquiring of her pieces by national museums. [8]

Knight's work focused on narrative paintings depicting the life, culture, and history of African Americans, through still life, portraits, and urban scenes. The majority of her career produced oil portraits of friends, figure studies of dancers, and watercolor and gouache landscapes. However, her work began to shift in the 1990's incorporating lyrical depictions of animals through etchings and monoprints. Her inspiration came from spontaneous responses to her surroundings, as well as African dance, sculpture, and theater. [9]

Exhibitions[edit]

Knight did not begin exhibiting her work publicly until the 1970s. Knight had several major solo exhibitions: Seattle Art Museum (1976), Virginia Lacy Jones Gallery, Atlanta University (1988), Francine Seders Gallery in Seattle (1994), Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight, at the Tacoma Art Museum (2003) and at DC Moore Gallery, New York in 2003. Her work was included in several group exhibitions, including the 1967 show, Portrayal of the Negroes in American Painting at the Forum Gallery.

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1993, Knight received the Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award. She was honored with the Caucus Centennial Medallion, from the Black Caucus. In 1984 she received the Centennial Award of Merit from Arizona State University, and in 1994, she received the Pioneer Award, Twelfth Annual Artists' Salute to Black History Month.

Selected Collections[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]