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Laura Knight: An artist's life on the edge

with Sacha Llewellyn, art historian associated

with MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England

A Balloon Site, Coventry, 1943.jpg

​​Laura Knight: An artist's life on the edge

Join our Restoration Conversation


Laura Knight could draw before she could speak, and the highly acclaimed British artist never stopped building on her earliest discovery. "A few strokes of the pencil can hold immensity," she claimed. "Described by the Sunday Times in 1950 as 'an adventurous woman who instinctively forced her way to the place where things were happening', Laura Knight was noted as an artist who sought out very public subjects, and not just those traditionally associated with women’s art," writes art historian Sacha Llewellyn. "Painting on canvases up to 7 feet high in 'solid heavy paint', Knight immersed herself in the demimonde of Gypsies, the circus, ballet and the theatre, developing a particular sense of kinship with women performers, whose dedication to their art mirrored her own."


Though Knight would depict performance artists for the whole of her life, posterity would best remember her for her War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC) commissions, where she recorded women’s vital role in the war effort. "No praise is too high for their staunchness," Knight would say of those she depicted. These women, like Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech-ring, would become icons in their own right, whose fame sometimes surpassed that of Knight herself. As an artist who hobnobbed with the jet-set but also felt at home in 'marginalised' communities, she observed and recorded the breadth of human experience with acute interest. Whether capturing its scenes, 'in riotous sunlight', or melancholy spotlight, she brought a keen eye and a bold brush to the costumes and customs of the Twentieth Century. ​Find out more about the MK Gallery, here.


This episode of the 'Restoration Conversations' series is sponsored and organised by Calliope Arts in partnership with the Royal Drawing School in London and Milton Keynes' MK Gallery, in celebration of the artist's retrospective show, 'Laura Knight, A panoramic view', curated by Fay Blanchard and Anthony Spira. The exhibition is open until February 20, 2022. Linda Falcone will be speaking with our guest Sacha Llewellyn. A Paris-based feminist art historian Sacha studied History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. As well as co-founding Liss Llewellyn in 1991, she has worked internationally  as a curator and author, and was the recipient of the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History in 2017. Her essay, 'Dame Laura's One-Man Show' can be found in the exhibition's catalogue.

Watch the broadcast

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

7pm in the UK, 8pm in Italy, 2pm EST; 11am PST




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