Dame Laura Knight painter 1877 - 1970
This post has been sitting in my drafts for the last 6 months, but with the release of the film about some of the Newlyn artists this is perhaps a good time to show it. I am also on a mission to feature more women painters, and Dame Laura Knight is right up there as one of my favourites.
The film "Summer in February" is set in the stunning Cornish landscape where the colony of painters lived and worked at the beginning of the 20th century. The film is not on general release but can be seen in specialised cinemas and theatres. However, these are readily found on the internet, and when I did a search I managed to find a location within a reasonable distance of where we live. In the film Laura and her husband Harold feature prominently. If you have not been to Cornwall then this film will entice you to visit especially when you see the breathtaking shots of the sweeping sands of Porthcurno, and Lamorna Cove.
Laura was born in my home county of Derbyshire to a family that struggled; her father died shortly after her birth. At Nottingham Art School she met Harold Knight - painter, her future husband, whose work she greatly admired.
In 1907 they moved to the artists' colony in Newlyn, Cornwall where she painted in an Impressionist style.
The Beach was one of the first paintings Laura did when she moved to Cornwall. Typically depicting the Cornish beaches it was widely admired by other artists and also the general public.
At the end of the First World War, the Knights moved to London, where Laura met many of the famous ballet dancers of the day, some of her most admired work dates from this period.
The Ballet Shoe
The Dressing Room at Drury Lane
In 1929 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and in 1936 was the first women elected to the Royal Academy. During the second World War, she was made an official war artist, following which she also became the official artist at the Nuremberg Trials.
A Balloon Site, Coventry
Ruby Loftus screwing a Breech Ring
In the 1920s Laura was struck by the visual potential of circus life following a visit to Bertram Mills Circus in Olympia which then led on to her enthusiasm for painting gypsies.
Circus MatineeWith her gift of establishing friendships with her subjects she was invited to join a group of gypsies at their encampment on Iver Heath. Here she did several of her gypsy paintings considered remarkable for their unsentimental treatment.
Gypsies, Caravan and Pony
Women interested in art, and women artists, have all too few role models - Laura Knight is one of the most inspiring.
all images courtesy BBC paintings website
Since writing this post a new retrospective showing Dame Laura Knight's portraits has opened at the National Portrait Gallery and will be there until 13th October.