Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS (British, 1877-1970) Shearing Sheep (To be sold with extensive correspondence between the artist and the family of the present owner, relating to the purchase of the work. )

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Lot 99AR
Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS
(British, 1877-1970)
Shearing Sheep
Sold for £ 18,750 (US$ 24,394) inc. premium

Lot Details
Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS (British, 1877-1970)
Shearing Sheep
signed 'Laura Knight' (lower left)
oil on canvas
63.5 x 76cm (25 x 29 15/16in).
To be sold with extensive correspondence between the artist and the family of the present owner, relating to the purchase of the work.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The artist.
    Private collection, UK (acquired directly from the above, December 1968, for £400).
    Thence by descent.

    Exhibited
    London, Royal Academy, Dame Laura Knight Retrospective, 1965.
    London, Mens Arts Club, 40 Dover Street, December 1968-January 1969 (according to a letter from Laura Knight to the purchaser, dated 2nd December 1968).

    Literature
    Laura Knight, The Magic of a Line, London, 1965, p. 277.

    The present lot, painted in 1940, depicts Walter and Fred Bishop shearing sheep at the Cummings family farm in Colwall. Knight notes in her autobiography The Magic of a Line:

    I have always wanted to paint sheep shearing, and found my chance early in 1940, at a farm close to hand, where I painted two men, one turning the wheel of the cutting machine, the other holding the pathetic, half-stripped, frightened creatures while at work on them with his shears.

    'We are going to shear my few sheep at five o'clock this evening. Come to my place if you'd like to' said one of the herdsmen. He was not on time for this appointment, and his wife asked me to come into their cottage for a cup of tea; while we sipped it, she switched on the radio. 'France has fallen' it announced.

    The men arrived soon afterwards, unpenned the animals that had to be sheared whether France has fallen or not. I made my study with trembling hands in the peace of that hillside, broken only by squeal of wheel, clip of shears and grunting sheep.
    1

    The correspondence between Knight and the purchaser of the present lot reveals a warm friendship between artist and patron. The correspondence starts in November 1968. The eventual purchaser of the work- who had met the artist at the Park Hotel in Colwall- wrote to Knight to enquire whether the painting, which depicted his cousin, was still available, and if so for what cost. Knight's reply was that the work was available for purchase at 600 guineas. Knight notes 'Perhaps you will tell me what you were prepared to pay and I will endeavour to meet you, for I am truly grateful to your cousin for giving me the opportunity of painting this picture, which I believe to be one of the best studies I ever made'.

    A figure of £400 was eventually settled on, with the caveat that Knight could exhibit the work one more time: 'Please would you be so kind as to lend it to me for a Christmas and New Year Exhibition I have promised to give that at the Mens Arts Club at 40 Dover Street... where they have made me the first woman member.'

    The family went on to meet Knight several times, and purchased a number of other works from the artist, including Mousehole Harbour (lot 97).

    Walter and Fred Bishop also appear in Harvesting, Malvern (see lot 100).

    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.

    1Laura Knight, The Magic of a Line, London, 1965, p. 277.
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