Harold Knight, RA, ROI, RP (British, 1874-1961) Launching Cobles

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Lot 79AR
Harold Knight, RA, ROI, RP
(British, 1874-1961)
Launching Cobles

Sold for £ 13,812 (US$ 18,482) inc. premium
Harold Knight, RA, ROI, RP (British, 1874-1961)
Launching Cobles
signed 'H KNIGHT' (lower left)
oil on canvas
50.5 x 61cm (19 7/8 x 24in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    (Possibly) Staithes Art Club, 1902, no. 20, sold for £8.
    Barbara Cavan Collection, UK.
    Private collection, UK.

    The power latent in Harold's brush found food for expression in the wealth of material obtained by living in close companionship with the salt-water folk, whose toil is great and whose recompense is small. I wish today that I could have assurance that certain canvases of Harold's painted in those early days, have survived on the misfortunes brought by two world wars.'
    (Laura Knight, The Magic of a Line, London, 1965, pp. 111-112)

    While drawn to the isolated, picturesque fishing village of Staithes for its unspoilt characteristics, the artists who gathered there at the end of the 19th century brought with them a milieu of influences from the ateliers of Europe and other artists colonies in Britain and France.1

    Laura and Harold Knight first visited Staithes in 1897 and returned many times to live and paint over the next ten years. In her autobiography Oil Paint and Grease Paint, Laura is effusive about their time there, noting 'its tremendous influence on work, life and power of endurance. It was there I found myself and what I might do. The life and place were what I had yearned for- the freedom, the austerity, the savagery, the wildness. I loved it passionately, overwhelmingly'.2 After their first visit to Staithes, Laura stayed a month before returning to Nottingham. Harold stayed on, borrowing money from his father, and returning at Christmas with 'all his money gone. He had piles of pictures such as he had never done. He was really launched as a picture-painter.'3

    Laura Knight's account of her and Harold's time in Staithes speaks of a sense of community and shared hardship, with artists living and working unhindered alongside the native villagers. While this may have been a view over-romanticised by the passing of time, Laura Newton notes that 'in the minds of the artists, there was a link between the characteristics of the Staithes folk's lives ... and that of the artistic community ... Laura Knight used the example of working with the villagers to help land the cobles in stormy weather as evidence of "that feeling of mutual help and camaraderie which fostered such a good feeling with the fisherfolk."'4

    By contrast to Harold Knight's 1900 work The Last Coble (RA, 1900, Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery), a dramatic depiction of Staithes boats landing on high seas, in the present lot, the artist captures a calmer scene, with cobles - fishing boats traditionally used in the North East coast of England and painted with characteristic red and blue stripes- being hauled over the shingle beach on rollers. Beside the boats, and beyond on the harbour wall, stand the fisherman's wives, many wearing traditional Staithes bonnets. The block signature in the present lot is similar to that used in Knight's 1899 work Cobles at Staithes (Nottingham Art exhibition, 1899).

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

    1 Laura Newton, Painting at the Edge, British Coastal Art Colonies 1880-1930, Bristol, 2005, p. 99.
    2 Laura Knight, Oil Paint and Grease Paint, London, 1936, p. 75.
    3 Knight, 1936, p. 76.
    4 Newton, 2005, p. 100. Laura Knight describes the incident at length in Oil Paint and Grease Paint, pp. 77-79.
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