makers / Dame Laura Knight

Dame Laura Knight


(b Long Eaton, Derbys, 4 Aug 1877; d London, 7 July 1970). English painter and designer. She studied at Nottingham College of Art from 1889. In 1894 the deaths of her mother and grandmother left her dependent on her own earnings, and she taught art from a studio in the Castle Rooms, Nottingham. From 1903 she exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, London, and in the same year married the painter Harold Knight (1874–1961); they lived in an artists’ community in Staithes, north Yorkshire, until 1907, also spending time in another community in Laren, Netherlands. They then moved to Newlyn, Cornwall, attracted by the presence of a number of prominent artists. The couple exhibited together at the Leicester Galleries, London, in 1912. Although Knight painted various subjects, her reputation was founded on paintings of the ballet and the circus, which became predominant after she moved to London. Technically of a high standard, her narrative realist works were painted in bright colours (e.g. Ballet, 1936; Port Sunlight, Lady Lever A.G.). She painted backstage during the Diaghilev ballet’s seasons in London and took lessons at Tillers Dancing Academy in St Martin’s Lane in order to draw there; she also travelled with the Mills and Carmos Circus. In the 1930s she started painting horses and gypsies at the races, as in Gypsy (1938–9; London, Tate). An accomplished portrait painter, she painted wartime commissions and was the official artist at the Nuremberg War-crime Trials. She also did etchings (e.g. Some Holiday, aquatint, 1925; see Fox, p. 60) and executed designs for stained-glass windows.