The National Portrait Gallery’s major exhibition of portraits by Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970), one of the leading British artists of the twentieth-century, opened on the 11 July 2013. The exhibition spans the artist’s life-long career and celebrates the centenary of the creation of Knight’s innovative Self Portrait.

Self Portrait by Dame Lura Knight 1913

Self Portrait

Included are both  commissioned portraits alongside those of members from specific social groups such as circus performers and Gypsies.

Gilderoy Smith 1890-1959

Gilderoy Smith 1890-1959

Other highlights include her works from Cornwall, the ballet and war portraits. Together these show a distinctive picture of twentieth-century Britain.

Cornwall sketchbook

Cornwall sketchbook

Rosie Broadley, Curator of Laura Knight Portraits and Associate Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘Laura Knight was one of the most famous and popular painters in Britain in the twentieth- century. She rose to the top of her profession, becoming a role model for many career-minded women.’

In the late nineteen thirties, Knight made a remarkable series of portraits of English Gypsies. She used an antique Rolls Royce as a cramped studio from which she painted the Gypsies.

Granny Smith

Gypsy Splendour

Her portraits demonstrate her great technical range and sympathetic approach to subjects, who were often on the margins of conventional society.’

During the war Knight produced a remarkable group of portraits, including women factory workers and pilots.

RAF Mildenhall Sketchbook

RAF Mildenhall Sketchbook

In her late sixties, she attended the Nuremberg war trials and drew the courtroom.

Nuremberg drawing

Nuremberg drawing


She was so horrified by the devastation of the city, that the image of it bombed out, and burning became part of the final war trial painting.


Neuremberg  trials painting showing parts of the bombed out city

Neuremberg trials painting showing parts of the bombed out city


EXHIBITION Laura Knight Portraits 11 July-13 Oct 2013, National Portrait Gallery, £7 (with Gift Aid) Concs £6.50/ £6

EVENTS The exhibition will have a programme of associated events and talks at the Gallery.

TOUR Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle (2 Nov 2013-16 Feb 2014), Plymouth Art Gallery (1 March-10 May 2014)


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