Born Laura Johnson in Derbyshire, Knight was encouraged to paint by her artist mother, joining Nottingham School of Art at the age of thirteen. She met her future husband, Harold Knight, here, and they became associated with the Staithes group of early modern painters. Based in a small fishing village in Yorkshire, the Staithes group were known as ‘The Northern Impressionists’, and were active in the last decades of the nineteenth century, through to the First World War. The Knights then studied the Dutch masters in Holland, moving to Cornwall in 1907, first in Newlyn, later Lamorna, where ‘they became central figures in the growing artists colony’.
Knight specialised in combinations of landscapes and figures, causing controversy amongst the local population by painting nude models outdoors. In the First World War Harold Knight was a conscientious objector, and made to work on the land. In 1919 the couple moved to London, although Laura maintained her Lamorna studio. In 1929 Knight was made a Dame for her services to art. Between 1933 and 1934 she designed ‘the form and decoration’ of the Circus range of tableware for Wilkinsons of Burslem, supervised by Clarice Cliff. She also designed the 1937 Coronation Ceramics for Wedgewood and glassware for Stuart Crystal. In 1936 she became the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy. During the Second World War she was commissioned to do work for the government, including posters for the ‘Lend a Hand on the Land’ campaign. Collections of Knight’s work are held in many museums, including the Tate Gallery in London.
Information taken from: Penlee House Gallery, ‘Dame Laura Knight nee Johnson, Penllee House Gallery and Museum, Cornwall UK’, http://www.penleehouse.org.uk/artists/laura-knight.htm, accessed October 03 2003, Brockhampton Press Dictionary of Design, 1997, p.98. ‘Home Propaganda’, Art and Industry, Vol 32, No.189, January 1942, p.21, See PRO INF 1/637, ‘Contracts with Artists: Dame Laura Knight October 1939-August 1940”, Zimmerman, T. ‘Laura Knight Paintings’, http://www.theo-zimmerman.freeserve.co.uk/lauraknight.htm, accessed October 03 2003