Laura Knight 1877-1970

DirectorJane Jackson
One line synopsisThe career of Laura Knight (1877-1970), British narrative-realist painter, known particularly for her work as a war artist and for her paintings of circuses and gypsies.

Dame Laura Knight, interviewed for television in 1970, saying that most people glance but don’t see, and that an artist "looks to see and understand the marvel of the Universe". VO saying that "if you live with a pencil and brush in your hand, you do live life as well as painting it". Waves breaking. Painting of On the Cliffs at Lamorna. Seagulls. Nude from Self-Portrait with Model (1913). Circus performers intercut with circus and gypsy paintings including Gypsy Splendour / Fine Feathers (1939). Take Off – Interior of a Bomber Aircraft (c.1943). Machinery. Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech-Ring (1941). A Balloon Site, Coventry (1943). VO continues saying that she paints "so many aspects of life" because "I just want to". Photographs. Commentary gives basic biographical and career information. Knight VO talking about her family and her mother separating from her father. Caroline Fox, Biographer, talking about Knight’s mother, who taught painting. Knight VO lace-making machinery talking about her grandfather and her family’s increasingly straightened circumstances. Kitchen interior. Fox VO talking about the decline in the lace industry. Knight VO schoolroom talking about being teased for wearing her elder sisters’ clothes. Nottingham Goose Fair. Fox VO talking about the colourful fairground influencing Knight’s later choice of subject matter. Photograph of Knight at Nottingham School of Art; photograph of Harold Knight. Students in studio. Knight VO talking about going to life classes, but, unlike the men, being permitted to draw only heads; women had to draw figures of statues. Fox VO on the results of this policy. Various portrait drawings and paintings (including Dressing the Children, c.1907) based on family subjects, with Knight VO on her mother’s terminal illness, and the poverty the family faced, on living in two rooms with her sister and subsisting mainly on porridge. Fox on Knight’s life at this time. Knight VO talking about paying poor children she found in the street to model for her. Mr Richards talking about his aunt, Nancy Richards,having been given three paintings by Knight to pay off a debt. Fox on Knight’s need to sell her work.

Portrait. Views of Staithes, Yorkshire; fishermen; traditional cobles; woman in lace bonnet. Knight VO on sister’s illness and going, with her sister and Harold Knight, to live with a great aunt. Fox talking about Knight meeting Charles Mackie and learning from him. Images of friends in country settings, a cottage, etc. VO Knight talking about going to London at every opportunity and making the acquaintance of the Bond Street dealers: more domestic scenes including Peeling Potatoes. Knight VO over photographs of Laura and Harold on their wedding day. Photographs of Laura and Harold. Knight VO photographs of beach and street scences from early 1900s talking about moving to Newlyn, Cornwall, and the relationship between realism and a photographic style. Newlyn Harbour . Fox standing in front of huge painting. VO The Beach (1908), Wind and Sun (1913), etc. Self-Portrait with Model, a ground-breaking work. The large painting, begun in Cornwall but completed in the London studio in the 1930s; photograph of Knight standing next to it. Knight VO talking about moving to London. Sketches and studies of ballerinas. Fox talks about Knight working backstage at Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. The Ballet Shoe (c.1932). Knight VO talking about working backstage, and being allowed to work with Pavlova. The Dressing Room. A Dressing Room at Drury Lane Ballet (1936). Behind the Scenes / In the Coulisses. Les Sylphides (1931).Photograph of Knight and others. News cutting announcing election to Royal Academy; articles by Knight. The 1970 interview: she says no-one influenced her work. Film of Knight painting in studio with various models and portraits. Photograph of Knight. Joan Rhodes, Actress, and portrait of her (B&W repro); film of Rhodes in her act. Rhodes talking about her sittings. Colour photograph of Rhodes posed next to the portrait. Circus scenes intercut with Charivari or The Grand Parade (1928), and other circus paintings such as Baby Jane, Carmos Circus (c.1930). Photographs of Knight with circus performers; her VO talking about living with a circus. Fox talking about Knight going to the races at Ascot and Epsom. Gypsy subjects such as The Gypsy (1939) and Gypsy Splendour. Newsreel: "R.O.F. Girl’s Portrait is Picture of the Year". Royal Academy exhibition; Knight; Ruby Loftus at work; the painting. In for Repairs (1942). Take Off. Fox VO talking about Knight’s correspondence with the War Office; photographs of Knight at an aircraft factory. Rhodes talking about Knight working. The Knights’ house in St John’s Wood, London. Mr and Mrs Richards talk about visiting Knight. Rhodes talking about Knight wanting to express what she saw and felt about the world. Fox on Knight’s "vast body of work in an incredible number of different styles of vastly different subject matter" and her "very, very colourful life". In the 1970 interview, Knight talks about being told by an Academician that she should stick to one subject and style but says "it just wasn’t possible" as she "liked a bit of adventure". Credits.

Production companyCentral Independent Television
Running time26 minutes
Full credits

Central wishes to thank Trustees of the Dame Laura Knight Estate,
Nottingham Castle Museum,
Atkinson Art Gallery, Southport,
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery,
Dundee Art Galleries and Museums,
Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-upon-Hull,
Gavin Graham,
Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston,
Hereford City Museums,
Imperial War Museum, London,
Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool,
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
Leicester Museums and Art Gallery,
Manya Igel Fine Art,
National Portrait Gallery, London,
Newport Museum and Art Gallery, Gwent,
Nottingham Archives Office,
Nottingham University,
Phillips and Sons, Cookham,
Pyms Gallery, London
Richard Green,
Royal Pavilion Art Gallery and Museum, Brighton,
Royal Academy Schools,
Tate Gallery, London.
Camera Gerry Pinches;
Sound John Marshall,
Robin Ward;
Rostrum Ken Morse;
Production Assistant Sylvia Ellis;
Production Secretary Alison Fuller;
Film Research Janet Rayner;
Stills Research Margaret Duerden
Research Jane Ades,
Vikki Worthington;
Film Editor McDonald Brown;
Producer Jim Berrow;
Director Jane Jackson.
© Central Independent Television plc MCMLXXXIX.

Film segmentLaura Knight 1877-1970 - ACE179.2
Laura Knight 1877-1970 - ACE179.3
Laura Knight 1877-1970 - ACE179.4
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