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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The Cornish Coast, 1917
The Cornish Coast, 1917

Oil-on-canvas painting by Laura Knight, shown at the exhibition: 'LAURA KNIGHT, A PANORAMIC VIEW' MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England 9 October 2021 to 20 February 2022 On loan from and photo courtesy Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2021. All rights reserved

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Spring in Cornwall, 1916-1935
Spring in Cornwall, 1916-1935

Oil-on-canvas painting by Laura Knight, shown at the exhibition: 'LAURA KNIGHT, A PANORAMIC VIEW' MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England 9 October 2021 to 20 February 2022 Photo courtesy Tate Images © Tate All rights reserved

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Lubov Tchernicheva, 1921
Lubov Tchernicheva, 1921

Painting by Laura Knight, shown at the exhibition: 'LAURA KNIGHT, A PANORAMIC VIEW' MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England 9 October 2021 to 20 February 2022 Private collection, Photo courtesy Liss Llewellyn © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2021. All rights reserved

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Unfinished Portrait Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Undated
Unfinished Portrait Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Undated

Oil-on-canvas painting by Laura Knight, shown at the exhibition: 'LAURA KNIGHT, A PANORAMIC VIEW' MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England 9 October 2021 to 20 February 2022 On loan from and photo courtesy Royal Academy of Arts, London © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2021. All rights reserved

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Gypsies at Ascot, Undated
Gypsies at Ascot, Undated

Oil-on-canvas painting by Laura Knight, shown at the exhibition: 'LAURA KNIGHT, A PANORAMIC VIEW' MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England 9 October 2021 to 20 February 2022 On loan from and photo courtesy Hereford City Museum © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2021. All rights reserved

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Chloe, 1926
Chloe, 1926

Oil-on-canvas by Laura Knight, shown at the exhibition: 'LAURA KNIGHT, A PANORAMIC VIEW' MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England 9 October 2021 to 20 February 2022 Private Collection. Photo courtesy Christie’s Images Limited © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2021. All rights reserved

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Study of a Girl aka Sarah, 1893
Study of a Girl aka Sarah, 1893

Painting by Laura Knight, shown at the exhibition: 'LAURA KNIGHT, A PANORAMIC VIEW' MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England 9 October 2021 to 20 February 2022 Private collection. Photo courtesy John Mitchell Fine Paintings © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2021. All rights reserved

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Ella Ardelty on the High Trapeze, Undated
Ella Ardelty on the High Trapeze, Undated

Oil on canvas by Laura Knight, shown at the exhibition: 'LAURA KNIGHT, A PANORAMIC VIEW' MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England 9 October 2021 to 20 February 2022 Private collection. Photo courtesy Sotheby's © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2021. All rights reserved

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A Balloon Site, Coventry, 1943
A Balloon Site, Coventry, 1943

Painting by Laura Knight, shown at the exhibition: 'LAURA KNIGHT, A PANORAMIC VIEW' MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, England 9 October 2021 to 20 February 2022 Oil on canvas, IWM Photo courtesy IWM © Crown Copyright IWM All rights reserved

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