Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) was the most famous English woman painter. « She’s a household name for a generation », said the President of the Royal Academy. In fact she represents a new generation, the beginnig o the XXth century and she was very popular. But she was not invited to paint one of the 60 masterpieces for the Festival of Britain of 1951.
- She painted during the second world war a lot of pictures of the formal, mémorial and public kind.
Maybe too many, it could have eroded her reputation.
Her perspective view from her pressbox can be an unsatisfactory thing of the backs and heads , lost profiles and a corny attempt at allegory.
« Where » , asked Russell Flint, « in the boundless field, has any woman-or how many men-shown such a wide range? Strength, tenderness, quick enriching sympathy: these are hers in overflowing measure… whatever the medium she uses, she is the mistress… »
- She took lessons in Lieder and sang;
Ethel Bertlett (1923)
- lessons in ballet and danced
Are the portrait elements smothered by tutu?
- and in clowing and did the splits.
Are the portrait elements smothered by greasepaint?
- On her death, Self and Nude (1913) was her most expensive painting
It reflects Knight’s belief that women artists should be as free as men to paint the nude.
Some people say it would be unremarkable if it had been done by a man. The handling of paint is intriguing in the red cardigan. Can we notice the pointillisme, her interest can be explain if we know that she was fascinated by Seurat.
- She grew up in Nottingham in the company of her mother, who gave private art lessons (whatercolour painting for a lady accomplishment), together with grandmothers and sisters. In 1890, she went to the Nottingham School of Art and there met Harold Knight. She married him in 1903. With the death of a sister, her grandmothers and her mother, she taught pupils by day and attending evening classes, until in 1894 she won a gold medal.
This portrait of her sister is very touching when we know that she will be killed a few days after.
- In 1907, the Kinghts moved to Newlyn to join a second wave of artists there. It was her most honest period as a painter. She liked the intellectual freedom and the company of the other artists. She liked the light and the warmth of Cornwall, in the open air with pastoral subjects, windblown, sunlit, energetic and in repose with the impetuous brushwork to match the unwieldy scale of her canvases until the 1914-18 war.
Munnings the most ebullient of Newlyn painters was to prompt her to paint gypsies.
Some people say that she is as documentary as some wretch sent up the Amazon to paint the native tribesmen.
With Afro-Americans, the jornalist Brian Sewell say : « She merely of her period and not as good as Neville Lewis or Glyn Philpot. »
- At the National Portrait Gallery until October 13. Even if there are only the portraits (it can be a damage to her reputation when is presented only a single branch of her work), it’s interesting.