Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS (British, 1877-1970) Charivari (The Grand Parade) (Executed in 1928)

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Lot 96AR
Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS
(British, 1877-1970)
Charivari (The Grand Parade)
Sold for £ 62,500 (US$ 81,314) inc. premium

Lot Details
Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS (British, 1877-1970) Charivari (The Grand Parade) (Executed in 1928) Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS (British, 1877-1970) Charivari (The Grand Parade) (Executed in 1928)
Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS (British, 1877-1970)
Charivari (The Grand Parade)
signed 'Laura Knight' (lower right)
watercolour and gouache over pencil
101.6 x 127cm (40 x 50in).
Executed in 1928

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The artist's estate; Sale, Sotheby's, London, 7 May 1975, lot 312.
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 21 May 1986, lot 89.
    Paisnel Gallery, London.
    Private collection, France (acquired from the above).

    The present lot is a study for one of Knight's most significant circus paintings, Charivari, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1929, and is now in the collection of Newport Museum & Art Gallery (fig 1). The work was commissioned by Major Evelyn Atherley, and at first the composition was just to include Atherley's terrier Blinkers and the clown Whimsical Walker (a study of Whimsical Walker was sold in these rooms, 14 March 2018, lot 113, fig 2). However, the Major was soon requesting the addition of other circus characters. The present lot closely resembles the finished painting, with performing elephants, piebald ponies, trapeze artists, tight rope walkers, clowns and acrobats, stilt walkers and contortionists.

    Harold Knight, the artist's husband, was sceptical that such an ambitious work was possible. However, through careful planning, Laura Knight succeeded in creating an impressive composition, that captures the fast-pace, energy and spirit of the circus. In her autobiography, Knight mentions a 'cartoon' of the final work, possibly referring to the present lot. She explains that 'a new cartoon had to be made, everything so carefully placed, even to a fraction of an inch, or some little dog or acrobat would be left out. The second cartoon met with his [Atherley's] complete satisfaction; but late September came before I finished the picture, a complicated piece of work'.1 The painting caused much publicity when it was exhibited and was also caricatured in Punch, with the faces of politicians replacing those of the circus characters.2

    Knight worked on the present lot in her studio over the carpenter's shop at Mousehole in Cornwall, inspired by the countless drawings and sketches she had made backstage at the circus. In her book Oil paint and Grease Paint she comments 'I have often tried to analyse the circus appeal. It is the display of indomitable courage that one sees and admires, an admiration inherent in the human race'.3

    The present lot encapsulates Knight's love for the circus and all the individual characters she met and respected. She wrote 'it was fun doing it, fitting everything in... I have fondness for the picture; perhaps it is because I am like the Major – a circus fan'.4

    This work will be included in the Laura Knight catalogue raisonné, currently being compiled by Mr R. John Croft FCA. We are grateful to Mr R. John Croft FCA for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.

    1 Laura Knight, Oil Paint and Grease Paint, Autobiography of Laura Knight, London, 1936, p. 308.
    2 Janet Dunbar, Laura Knight, London, 1975, p. 129.
    3 Knight, p. 299.
    4 Knight, p. 309.
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