The Circus Horse

by Dame Laura Knight


DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 10.2 x 14.3 inches (25.9 x 36.3 cm)
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘Laura Knight’ (lower right)
MEDIUM: Watercolour and pencil on paper

Dame Laura Knight’s life began in poverty, but she went on to achieve considerable success in her lifetime – and in that time she also befriended people from all walks of life, from well-known authors, actors, and aristocrats to gypsies and circus folk.


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    Catalogue No: 6702 Categories: , ,

    This lovely composition is from a period in Knight’s career when she was fully established as an artist. As ever, she was engrossed with the art of performance, in particular with ballet and the theatre. Knight would spend her time sketching either in London’s many parks and gardens, or backstage at the Royal Opera House, favouring performances and rehearsals of the Bolshoi Ballet.

    Private collection, United Kingdom
    British Art on Paper including Victorian Watercolours from the Albert Dawson Collection

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    Dame Laura Knight was an English artist who worked in oils, watercolours, etching, engraving and dry point printing. The artist was born in Derbyshire and was encouraged to paint by her artistic mother from a young age.  Although her life began in poverty, eventually she became financially successful and developed lasting friendships with people from all walks of life, from gypsies, circus folk and factory workers to more fortunate well-known authors, actors, playwrights and aristocrats. She first went to study at Nottingham School of Art at the age of just thirteen years. It was here that she met her future husband, Harold Knight, with whom she spent time in Staithes, Yorkshire, where they both found great inspiration for their work.

    During her long career, Knight was among the most successful and popular painters in Britain. In 1929 she was created a Dame and in 1936 became the first woman elected to the Royal Academy since its foundation in 1768. Although Knight was known for painting amidst the world of the theatre and ballet in London, and for being a war artist during the Second World War, she was also greatly interested in, and inspired by, more marginalised communities and individuals including Gypsies and circus performers. Her focus on rural life and ‘simple’ people was attractive to the urban middle classes, who longed for the idyllic countryside. Her success in the male-dominated British art establishment paved the way for greater status and recognition for women artists. She is now recognised as the most famous female British artist of the Impressionist School.

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