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Dame Laura Knight (British 1877-1970)

Dame Laura Knight was born 4th August 1877 and died on 7th July 1970 aged 92 years old.

Knight was a British artist who embraced impressionism and was known for painting in oils, watercolours, etching, engraving and dry point. She was one of the most successful painters of her time in Britain and paved the way for female artists in a male dominated British art establishment. At the very beginning of her career her mother enrolled her at Nottingham School of Art as an artisan student paying no fees aged 13. Aged 15 she took over teaching from her mother. Knight later won a scholarship and gold medal in the national student competition held by the then South Kensington Museum, she continued to teach after this where she went on to marry one of her students, Harold Knight in 1903. Notable achievements of her’s include 1929 being created a dame, 1936, receiving a full membership to the Royal Academy, the first woman since its foundation in 1768 and in 1965 she was the first woman, when she presented her large retrospective exhibition at the the Royal Academy in 1965. Knight was a war artist during World War II as well as being known for painting amidst the world of theatre and ballet in London, she also had a huge interest in marginalised individuals such as gypsies, which led to some of her most famous work such as ‘Gypsy Splendour’ (1939) which was shown at the Royal Academy in 1939.

 

Knights most notable work includes: The Three Clowns, Old Time Clowns; where she had to slightly change her style of painting to make it much quicker due to the circus models not having time to pose for such lengthy periods of time In For Repairs (1941), Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech Ring (1943), The Green Feather, Self Portrait with Nude (1913). For The Self Portrait With Nude (1913), Knight resented not being able to paint nude models and through this painting made a clear challenge to this, she went on to paint paintings such as ‘Daughters of the Sun’ showering several women, some naked. The Self Portrait With Nude painting was championed by some such as Simon Schama who hailed it as a ‘masterpiece’ and ‘incomparably her greatest work’.After Knights death the painting was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery and this was seen as symbolic of wider female emancipation.