Laura Knight at the National Portrait Gallery, London

LAURA KNIGHT PORTRAITSUntil 13 October 2013,

 

This is a really good show and despite the fact that The National Portrait Gallery does not allow their images to be used on social networking sites I thought that I should bring it to your attention.  I am allowed though to give you the link to their website where you can access the images – www.npg.org.uk

 There is little doubt that Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) was one of the leading twentieth-century British artists.  Her artistic career is celebrated in an exhibition of over forty works at The National Portrait Gallery.

It includes the famous 1913 self-portrait as well as paintings of ballet, circus performers and gypsies. Perhaps less well-known are her sympathetic, sensitive studies of patients, including children in the racially segregated wards in the John Hopkins Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, USA.  In 1926 her husband, the painter, Harold Knight (they had married in 1903) had several commissions there and she accompanied him.

She was thorough in researching her subjects, spending time with both Bertram Mills and Great Carmo’s touring circus to capture circus people both in and out of the Big Top.  She was equally dedicated with her paintings of gypsies. She painted them in the mid-Thirties at Epsom Races, which eventually led to her being invited to visit a gypsy encampment at Iver, Buckinghamshire.  She visited it daily for several months and created some of her most penetrative portraits of one of the families.

During the Second World War she produced a series of works, showing female munitions workers and members of the auxiliary air force.  These portraits were of women who had achieved distinction in their work or been decorated for courageous acts.  At the end of the war, when in her late-sixties, she was sent as a war correspondent to the Nuremberg Trials where she painted the scene from the Court’s press box.

Hers was a life of achievement; from being Nottingham Art School’s youngest pupil at the age of thirteen to becoming, in 1936, the first full female member of the Royal Academy of Arts.  The only others had been Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffman and they were founder members when it was created in 1768.  She was also the first female artist to be given a retrospective at the RA in 1965.  One cannot forget either her appointment as a Dame of the British Empire in 1929.

As the NPG’s Director, Sandy Nairne says, ‘Dame Laura Knight created superb portraits which are a key part of twentieth-century British art. I am delighted that the National Portrait Gallery is staging the first exhibition dedicated to this work and would like to thank the Dame Laura Knight Estate for helping make this possible.’

While I echo this sentiment I must admit to being disappointed at not being able to illustrate this piece for you but I do hope you will use the link and even better, be motivated to see this exhibition.

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