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Laura Knight RA: A Working Life

Explore paintings and drawings by Laura Knight RA, the first woman to be elected to full membership of the Royal Academy of Arts.

This free display celebrates the work of Laura Knight RA, one of the most famous and popular British artists in the first half of the 20th century. Drawn from the RA’s Collection of paintings, drawings and sketchbooks, the show explores three distinct themes from her long working life – the countryside, the nude and scenes from the theatre, ballet and circus.

Her portrait of Joan Rhodes, a music hall strong woman known as “The Mighty Mannequin”, will be on show alongside drawings and sketchbooks from around 1911 to the 1960s. These include drawings from the Folies Bergère and the Ballets Russes, to which she had privileged access in 1919 and the 1920s, the Blackpool Ice-Drome, the circus drawings of Bertram Mills and Carmo who she joined on the road, and the landscapes of the Malvern Hills where she and her husband settled in the 1930s.

From the age of thirteen, Knight studied at Nottingham School of Art. She then lived and worked in an artists’ colony in Staithes, Yorkshire before moving to join the thriving artists’ community at Newlyn in Cornwall. She was awarded a Damehood in 1929, and was the first woman to be elected to full membership of the Royal Academy in 1936.

Knight, Laura; Dawn Credit line: (c) The Artist’s Estate (c) Royal Academy of Arts / Photographer credit: John Hammond /

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