Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

Charles Knight (1901 – 1990)

Pencil and watercolour, signed and dated  ‘22, 6.4 x 22.9 cm

The Sussex landscape painter, Charles Knight, channeled the tradition of English watercolour painting in order to produce his own original contribution. As a result, he became a pillar of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-Colours and received acclaim, from William Russell Flint, as the ‘star turn’ of the Recording Britain scheme.

Charles Knight was born in Hove on 27 August 1901, to a family which had long farmed in the area. His father, employed by a firm of Brighton publishers, remained a keen naturalist and artist, and took the young Charles on walking and sketching trips, so initiating a love of Sussex. His gift for drawing was further encouraged by trips to France with a childhood mentor, Canon Elliott. Studying first at Brighton School of Art (1919-23), in 1923 he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools and, though commuting from the South Coast, became exposed to many new influences.

From 1925, Knight taught at Brighton School of Art, first as a full-time lecturer, and later as a visitor. Following his marriage in 1934, he moved to nearby Ditchling in the heart of the Sussex countryside. The forty drawings of the county, which he produced for Recording Britain, were dubbed the ‘star turn’ of the project by William Russell Flint. During the Second World War, he was reserved by the teaching profession, and returned to full-time teaching at the college, but also worked as a night telephone operator for the Civil Defence and a member of the Home Guard. In 1944, he was asked by the Queen Mother to give Princess Margaret lessons in watercolour painting; his appointment lasted for three years. He continued to teach at Brighton School of Art, and in 1959 became both Vice-Principal and Head of the Drawing and Painting Department. Though he retired from teaching in the mid-sixties, he continued to paint and exhibit a wide variety of confident watercolours until the end of his life. He died on 15 May 1990.

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