Dame Laura Knight, (née Johnson), DBE RA RWS


Private collection, U.K.,

“Mother and Child” circa 1903

Laura Knight was brought up in impoverished circumstances, her father died early in her life (1883), learnt to draw and paint at an early age from her mother. Her mother Charlotte Johnson taught art and had to give private tuition to help provide essential housekeeping monies. At the age of 13 Laura joined the Nottingham School of Art and was probably the youngest pupil they ever enrolled. One year later her mother was diagnosed with cancer and died four years later. In the interim period Laura was awarded the Princess of Wales Scholarship an award of £20 pa for two years as she had won more awards than any other woman in Britain.

In 1900 together with her sister Eva, Laura moved to Staithes (1900 – 07), where in 1903 she married Harold who she met at the Nottingham School of Art. In 1903 Laura had her first painting hung at the Royal Academy Mother and Child No.1

Towards the end of 1907 Laura and Harold moved to Cornwall where they stayed for ten years till 1918. Laura developed a close friendship with both Alfred Munnings and also with Lamorna Birch and his wife “Mouse” and spent much time in Lamorna.  Several of Laura’s well known early works were painted in and around Lamorna e.g. Lamorna Birch and his daughters 1913; Spring 1916.

On moving to Cornwall Laura’s work developed and flourished; her work became much softer and yet aglow in colour and painted en plein air. As in Staithes Laura continued to paint children e.g. The Beach 1908; The Boys 1910 and Flying the Kite 1910. The Beach was a transitional work moving away from the less flamboyant painting of the Staithes period.

For some of Laura’s most delicate paintings in this period she employed the medium of watercolour, something she had started with great effect in the early 1900’s. An early example of watercolour and bodycolour was Cheyne Walk 1909 and another example of this delicate painting was the gouache and watercolour Wind and Sun c1913.

Following the move to London another new period of change started in her work, as she became increasingly absorbed in new subject matters, that were to include –the ballet, the theatre, the circus and, country and rural scenes.

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