Laura Cumming TV - National Portrait Gallery online - The Telegraph online - Simon Schama TV -
Laura Knight: she’s voting for women’s art. Laura Cumming, Ego: The Strange and Wonderful World of Self-Portraits, BBC 2013
Dame Laura Knight (1877 –1970) was one of the most popular and pioneering British artists of the twentieth century. Her artistic career took her from Cornwall to Baltimore, and from the circus to the Nuremberg Trials. She painted dancers at the Ballets Russes and Gypsies at Epsom races, and was acclaimed for her work as an official war artist.
Knight used portraiture to capture contemporary life and culture, and her paintings are remarkable for their diverse range of subjects and settings. This exhibition of over thirty portraits will reveal Knight’s highly distinctive and vivid work, and also illustrate her success in gaining greater professional recognition for women in the arts. National Portrait Gallery online
When Self Portrait by Laura Knight went on show in 1913 the critics were astounded.
Women artists painting themselves was nothing new, but they were expected to pose as conventional subjects, dressed appropriately in their Sunday best. Yet here was Knight with her back to the viewer, wearing lumpy work clothes and flourishing the tools of her trade: a canvas and brush.
At a time when women were campaigning fiercely for the vote, Knight’s insistence on portraying herself as an independent professional sent a clear message. But that wasn’t all.
What really shocked the art establishment was that Knight had dared to show herself in the process of painting a nude figure. It made no difference that the model, Ella Naper, was female and a friend.
The critic from the Telegraph derided Self Portrait as ‘vulgar’, while 25 years later The Times was still describing the painting as ‘regrettable’. The Telegraph online article Kathryn Hughes 11th July 2013
Laura Knight was to become a frontline warrior who’d use the self-portrait to violate gloriously all the confining conventions that the men who ruled the art world had imposed. Face of Britain by Simon Schama V, BBC 2015