Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Penzance
The artistic heart of West Cornwall's history

The Clay Pit, 1914

Watercolour and gouache on paper. The George Bednar Donation.

Laura Knight

1877 - 1970

Throughout here life, Dame Laura Knight was popular with fellow artists and the public alike and she remains one of Britain's favourite painters to this day. Her achievements included being the first woman ever elected as an RA and being selected as a War Artist, famously documenting the Nuremburg Trials.



Laura Knight - 1877 - 1970

Born in Derbyshire, Laura Johnson was encouraged to paint by her artistic mother and first went to study at Nottingham School of Art at the age of thirteen. It was here that she met her future husband, Harold Knight, with whom she spent time in Staithes (a small fishing village in Yorkshire), where they both found inspiration and in Holland, where they studied the Dutch masters.

In 1907, the Knights came to Cornwall, at first taking lodgings in Newlyn and later moving to Lamorna, where they became central figures in the growing artists colony. Laura specialised in combining landscapes and figures, painting nude models out of doors, caused some controversy among the local population, but her charming and lively personality overcame most resistance.

During the WW1, Harold Knight was a conscientious objector and was made to work on the land. Afterwards, in 1919, the couple decided to leave Cornwall, moving to London. Laura kept her Lamorna studio for some years and continued to return to Cornwall, where she felt she had spent her happiest times.

She was made a Dame in 1929 for her services to art and in 1936 became the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy.

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