One of the foremost British women painters of the twentieth century, Dame Laura Knight had a long a prolific career and proved a remarkable versatile painter, tackling a wide variety of subjects ranging from brilliant Cornish seascapes to the Nuremburg Trials.
She studied at the Nottingham School of Art where she met Harold Knight whom she married in 1903. From 1895 onwards they lived primarily in Staithes, Yorkshire, interspersed with visits to Holland. In favour of a change of scene, they moved to Cornwall in 1907 and became part of the Newlyn School where they lived 'a carefree life of sunlit pleasure and leisurely study...' (Oil Paint and Grease Paint, 1936, p. 162). The outbreak of the First World War ended this idyllic period and in 1918 the Knight’s moved to London, although they kept studios at Lamorna for some years, returning during the summers to paint the Cornish landscapes.
Increasingly interested in the stage, Dame Laura Knight began to paint scenes of theatre, ballet and circus life, and between the wars, her pictures of the Big Top established her fame and reputation. An official war artist during the Second World War, Knight’s early commissions were dictated by the convention that women artists should record women's subjects.
Recognised as one of the most talented artists of the time, Knight was President of the Society of Women Artists, and in 1929 became a Dame of the British Empire. In 1936 Dame Laura Knight was elected a Royal Academician, the same year that she wrote her autobiography Oil Paint and Grease Paint.