Woman and Child by Dame Laura Knight Expand Icon

Dame Laura Knight

Woman and Child

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Year
1920
Size
Unframed 19.4 x 15.3cm; Framed 54.1 x 41.4cm
Medium
Watercolour
Provenance
Bequeathed by John Pennefeather in 1947.

‘Woman and Child’ by Dame Laura Knight was bequeathed by John Pennefeather in 1947. Knight (1877-1970) was an English artist who became the first woman to be elected a full member of the Royal Academy. She enrolled as an “artisan student” at the Nottingham School of Art and worked in oils, watercolours, etching, engraving and drypoint. Knight was a painter in the figurative, realist tradition, who embraced English Impressionism. Knight was among the most successful and popular painters in Britain. Her success in the male-dominated British art establishment paved the way for greater status and recognition for women artists.

Knight was known for her paintings of theatre and ballet, and for being a war artist during the Second World War. In 1946 she spent three months observing the Nuremberg war crimes trials to create a monumental allegorical painting. In addition to painting nudes and self-portraiture, Knight was also known for painting ordinary people. Throughout her life, she maintained an interest in social documentary. She was also greatly interested in, and inspired by, marginalised communities and individuals.

She continuously returned to humble subject matters, despite earning lucrative commissions from members of the cosmopolitan elite and even the Royal Family. In 1965, the Royal Academy held a retrospective of Knight's work – another first for a woman artist.

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