Dame Laura Knight
Dame Laura Knight, OBE, RA (1877-1972)
Laura Knight was particularly famous for capturing the world of London's theatre district, ballet and the circus. She was a member of the Newlyn School of Art and the first women artist to be made a Dame of the British Empire.
Laura (maiden name Johnson) was born in Long Easton, Derbyshire, the daughter of Charles and Charlotte Johnson. Her father died not long after her birth hence Laura grew up in a family struggling with financial problems.
In 1899 she was sent to France with the intention that she would eventually study art at a Parisian atelier, however, events would prevent this course of study. Instead, after a short time in French schools she returned to England.
At the age of 13 she entered the Nottingham School of Art and was one of the youngest students ever to join the school. While there she met one of the most promising students Harold Knight.
They soon became friends and in 1903 they married.
1907 saw the start of Laura Knight's impressionist style. The widely admired work, by both other artists and the public, of The Beach (1908) showed this style. Then in 1913 a painting that was a first for a women artist, Self Portrait with Nude, showing Laura Knight with a nude model (fellow artist Ella Naper was the model).
After the first World War the Knights moved to London where Laura met some of the most famous ballet dancers of the day (such as Lydia Lopokova, Enrico Cecchetti , and Anna Pavlova). This was the beginning of the period of her most famous works. From there she would move on to the subject of the circus in 1928. Her eye then moved (1938) to the world of horse racing and gypsies as subjects for her paintings. After World War II, she also documented the Nuremberg Trials in her art. The result was The Dock, Nuremberg (1946). She continued to paint after her husband's death in 1961 as well as writing two autobiographies, "Oil Paint and Grease Paint "(1936) and "The Magic of a Line "(1965).
In 1929 she was made a Dame of the British Empire.