Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS (British, 1877-1970) The Bather

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Lot 92AR
Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS
(British, 1877-1970)
The Bather

Sold for £ 85,062 (US$ 109,570) inc. premium
Dame Laura Knight, RA, RWS (British, 1877-1970)
The Bather
signed 'Laura Knight' (lower right)
oil on canvas
46 x 46cm (18 1/8 x 18 1/8in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Property of a deceased's estate.

    Fond memory tells of the beauty of line and colour seen daily during the warmer months from my painting hut on the Cornish coast. In a private spot my young friends and hired models swam and dived in the deep pools at low tide or lay in repose on the rocks. How holy is the human body when bare of other than the sun.
    (Laura Knight, The Magic of a Line, London, 1965, p. 140)

    The period of time that Laura Knight spent in Cornwall, from 1907-1918 saw a maturation in her style. As Caroline Fox observes, 'inspired by the beauty and light of West Cornwall, encouraged by the support of fellow artists, and for the first time enjoying an active social life... her art blossomed, showing a greater awareness of light, the use of bright colour and freer, more vigorous brushwork.'1

    Beginning to enjoy success at the Royal Academy with works such as Boys and Flying a Kite (both RA, 1910, nos. 360 and 712), and buoyed with confidence, Knight began to paint more female figure studies, often naked, commencing what she referred to as 'an intensive study covering many years- that of the nude figure in its natural surroundings.' 2 As Caroline Fox observes, Knight was 'establishing a new precedent. It had previously been unknown for a woman to paint a female nude out of doors'.3 The figure is possibly one of Jessica Heaths daughters, Aileen, who is depicted in several of Knight's seashore rock pool scenes, namely Bathing and The Bathing Pool, both painted circa 1912.

    Possibly painted at the rock pools beneath the cliffs at Lamorna, where the Knights kept a studio long after leaving Cornwall in 1918, in the present lot the artist places the figure in the corner of the composition, allowing the blues and greens of the tranquil waters to dominate the plane. Knight employs this compositional technique in a number of Cornish coastal works, such as Two girls on a Cliff, Lamorna Cove and On the Cliffs.

    This work will be included in the Laura 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 Caroline Fox, Dame Laura Knight, Oxford, 1988, p. 25.
    2 Laura Knight, The Magic of a Line, London, 1965, p. 140.
    3 Fox, 1988, p. 34.
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