Born at Long Eaton, Derbyshire, and raised in Nottingham, Laura attended art school near Paris, then Nottingham School of Art in 1890, where she met Harold KNIGHT, marrying him in 1903. After living in the arts colony at Staithes, the couple moved to Cornwall in 1907 and soon made friends with Dod PROCTER, Ernest PROCTER, and the Birch family, amongst many others. She involved herself indefatigably in the life of the Lamorna arts community, and was infamous for painting nude models on the cliffs nearby. She sold Mischief and The Kitten from NAG in 1910. Her friendship with the Birch family was maintained in correspondence with Mornie KERR until her death, and much valued, the child having featured as a model in Laura's and Harold's Cornish paintings.
The Knights were especially close friends of the Napers, the Leaders, the Hughes, and the Birches, and Laura was always careful to keep in touch with them over her long and celebrated life.
However, World War I proved to be a divisive time for the Lamorna community. Harold was a conscientious objector and made his views clear. His health was not good and initially his age precluded him from active service. But in spring of 1918 the conscription age was lowered. When he was called up, he appeared before the West Penwith Tribunal and was exempted from duty on condition that he should carry out agricultural work, which he did, until he was released in the spring of 1919. The experience took his toll on his health and the couple decided that they could no longer endure the hostility from some of their friends and neighbours, and so moved to London later that year to further their careers.
During the 1920s and 1930s Laura became the well known painter of ballet, circus and gypsy life. She worked as a war artist during WWII, and in 1942 was appointed to record the Nuremberg trials in drawings.
In their concluding review of her life and work, Grimes et al comment: 'Women interested in British art, and British women artists, have all too few role models - Laura Knight is one of the most inspiring.' Her two volume autobiography Oil Paint and Grease Paint (1936) and The Magic of a Line (1965), though not great literature, provides one of the few first-hand accounts published of the community life of the artists in West Cornwall; the anecdotes from it are regularly rehearsed in the biographies of those who knew her.
Painter, printmaker, etcher and aquatint engraver
works and access
Likenesses of the Artist: Self Portrait (1913); Myself and Model (1913;it was the most expensive work exhibited with STISA during first quarter-century, when it was priced at £535 at the 1937 Bath show)
Works include: Portrait of Phyllis Vipond Crocker (2 pencil sketches); Portrait of Bernard Walke; Interior of a Carpenter's Workshop (c1907); The Beach (1908); Men Working in a China Clay Pit; The China Clay Pit (1914); Morning, 'Bob' (1912); The Model (1914); The Bathing Party, Lamorna (1916); Penzance fair (1916); Drawn to the community [Two girls on a cliff] (c1917); Holiday Time (c1920); Carnival (1920); Bank holiday (1924); The Flax Gatherers; The Dressing Room (1924); The Mirror; Study of a circus horse; Gypsies at Ascot; Looking in the Glass (1930; Romanies at Epsom (1938); In the Harbour (c1940); The Coronation Route (1953); In the Coulisses (oil on panel, Falmouth); The Rock Pool (Messums 2010)
Access to work in Cornwall: Penlee House, Penzance; Falmouth Art Gallery
Access elsewhere: Hereford Museum and Art Gallery; Manchester Art Gallery; Ayot St Lawrence (Shaw's Corner); Bethnal Green Musuem; Birmingham; Blackburn; Blackpool; Bolton; Bradford; Bristol; Bury; Canterbury; Cardiff; Coventry; Doncaster; Harrogate; Hereford; Hull; Imperial War Museum; Leeds; Leicester;Walker Gallery, Liverpool; Manchester; Manchester Whitworth Gallery; National Portrait Gallery; Newcastle; Newport; Norwich; Nottingham; Ashmolean, Oxford; Preston; Rochdale; Sheffield; Southport; Stoke; Tate; Worthing; Adelaide; Auckland; Brisbane; Cape Town; Dunedin; Johannesburg; Ottawa; Pietermaritzburg; Perth; Sydney; Wellington
Publications include: Oil Paint and Grease Paint (1936) and The Magic of a Line (1965)
RA May 1920
NAG March 1909, March 1914
RWE Artists from Cornwall Exh 1992 Bristol
1996: Falmouth Art Gallery Women Artists of Cornwall (Group)
2002: Penlee House Faces of Cornwall Exhibition and Women Painters (Group);
2012: Penlee House Laura Knight - In the Open Air (June-Sept)
RA 1936 (First woman to be elected full RA in Twentieth Century)
Senior RA 1953
NSA 1907 onwards;
Cornish Telegraph 25 Mar 1909
St Ives Times 27 Mar 1914, 14 May 1920 [from WMN]
Cross (1994) On Shining Sands
Dunbar Laura Knight
Grimes et al (1989) Five Women Painters
Hardie (1990) In Time and Place, Lamorna illus
Hardie (1995) 100 Years in Newlyn: Diary of a Gallery
Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall (col pl The China Clay Pit)
Hoyle, H (Sept 2010 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) 'Laura Knight - Representations of Women'
Hoyle, H (June 2012 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) 'Laura Knight - In the Open Air'
Hoyle, H (March 2013 Women Artists in Cornwall www.cornishmuse.blogspot.com) 'Summer in February - Art in Lamorna 1910-1914'
Knight (1936) Oil Paint and Grease Paint;
Knight (1965) Magic of a Line
Messums Exh Cat (Autumn 2010): High Tide (illus)
Morden, Barbara (2013) Laura Knight: A Life
McNidder & Grace Newton et al (2005) Painting at the Edge
Public Catalogue Foundation (2007) Oil Paintings in Public Ownership in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (p18 illus, p144)
RWE Artists from Cornwall Exh Cat (1992) Bristol
Tovey (2000) GF Bradshaw & STISA (Appendix 3: Principal Members of STISA 1927-1960)
Tovey (2003) Creating a Splash
Tovey (2022) Lamorna - An Artistic, Social and Literary History - Volumes I & II, Wilson Books
Whybrow (1994) St Ives