Dame Laura Knight was an English artist who worked in oils, watercolours, etching, engraving and drypoint. The artist was born in Derbyshire and was encouraged to paint by her artistic mother. Her life began in poverty but 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 thirteen years. It was here that she met her future husband, Harold Knight, with whom she spent time in Staithes, Yorkshire and where they both found inspiration for their art.

Knight was a painter in the figurative, realist tradition who embraced English Impressionism. 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 success in the male-dominated British art establishment paved the way for greater status and recognition for women artists.

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