A Taste of Rococo

Rococo was an exuberantly decorative 18th-century European style which was the final expression of the baroque movement. It pushed to the extreme the principles of illusion and theatricality, an effect achieved by dense ornament, asymmetry, fluid curves, and the use of white and pastel colours combined with gilding,
The Rococo style of architecture and decoration began in France in the first part of the 18th century in the reign of Louis XV as a reaction against the more formal and geometric Style Louis XIV.
The derivation of the word is a combination of “rocaille”, a style distinguished by the use of shells as in a grotto,  and “baroque”.
Rococo artists and architects used a more jocular, florid, and graceful approach to the Baroque, with playful and witty themes. The interior decoration of Rococo rooms was designed as a total work of art with elegant and ornate furniture, small sculptures, ornamental mirrors, and tapestry complementing architecture, reliefs, and wall paintings.


Interior of the Salon de la Princesse, in the Hôtel de Soubise, Paris


Charles Cressent, Commode, 1730, Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, UK


Jean-Honoré Fragonard, L’Escarpolette, c1767, oil on canvas, 81 × 64 cm, Wallace Collection, London, UK

This work by Fragonard is probably one of the first paintings that comes to mind when thinking about the rococo period.


Antoine Watteau, L’Embarquement pour Cythère, c1719, oil on canvas, 120 x 190 cm, Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, Germany

This style of “frivolous” painting soon became the target of the philosophers of the Enlightenment, who demanded a more serious art which would show the nobility of man.


Gustaf Lundberg, Portrait of François Boucher, 1741, pastel on blue paper, 65 x 50, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

François Boucher, 1703-1770, is known for his idyllic and voluptuous paintings on classical themes, decorative allegories, and pastoral scenes. He was perhaps the most celebrated painter and decorative artist of the 18th century. He also painted several portraits of his patroness, Madame de Pompadour.
The Goncourt brothers wrote: “Boucher is one of those men who represent the taste of a century, who express, personify and embody it.”
One of Boucher’s most quoted remarks is that nature is “trop verte et mal éclairée”


François Boucher, Portrait de la Marquise de Pompadour, 1756, oil on canvas, 201 x 157 cm, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, 1721-1764, commonly known as Madame de Pompadour, was a member of the French court and was the official chief mistress of Louis XV from 1745 to 1751, and remained influential as court favourite until her death. She took charge of the king’s schedule and was a valued aide and advisor, despite her frail health and many political enemies. She secured titles of nobility for herself and her relatives, and built a network of clients and supporters.
She was a major patroness of architecture and decorative arts, especially porcelain.
Louis XV remained devoted to Pompadour until her death from tuberculosis. Louis nursed her through her illness. Even her enemies admired her courage during the final painful weeks. Voltaire wrote: “I am very sad at the death of Madame de Pompadour. I was indebted to her and I mourn her out of gratitude. It seems absurd that while an ancient pen-pusher, hardly able to walk, should still be alive, a beautiful woman, in the midst of a splendid career, should die at the age of forty-two.”

The following five paintings are typical of the work of Boucher, and are chosen because each contains a similar image


François Boucher, Les Caresses dangereuses, 1730-32, oil on canvas, 80 x 65 cm, Private Collection



François Boucher, A Young Woman taking a Foot Bath, 1766, oil on canvas, 53 x 42 cm, Private Collection


François Boucher, La Modiste, 1746, oil on canvas, Wallace Collection, London, UK


François Boucher, La Toilette, 1742, oil on canvas, 53 x 67 cm, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain


François Boucher, La Belle villageoise, 1732, oil on canvas, 41 x 31 cm, Private Collection

And the link…


As shown above, Mme de Pompadour was the principal mistress of Louis XV. She became the confidante and advisor tot he king, and was a great influence upon him.
Louis had many petites maîtresses, among whom was Louis O’Murphy.

Left, François Boucher, Girl Resting, 1751, oil on canvas, 60 x 74 cm, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany
and right, François Boucher, Louise O’Murphy c. 1752, oil on canvas, 59 x 73 cm, Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

Louise O’Murphy, at fifteen years old, a petite maîtresse of Louis XV, unlike Mme de Pompadour, who was maîtresse en titre. Marie-Louise’s parents are known to have had a  criminal record: Daniel Morfi was involved in a case of espionage and blackmail, while Marguerite Iquy was accused of prostitution and theft.
The circumstances of the presentation of Louise to Louis XV are unknown, but it is thought that the inner circle of Mme de Pompadour herself was responsable for the acquisition of the petites maîtresses. Her brother, the Marquis de Marigny had been shown the 1751 portrait, who in turn presented it to the king.

Louis took her as one of his mistresses. She soon became one of his favourites, and had a daughter, Agathe. After only two years at court, a marriage was arranged for her and she was sent away. After the death of her first husband, she married twice more.


François Boucher, L’Odalisque brune, c1754, oil on cavas, 54 x 65 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

The date of the painting is disputed, and it is not certain whether it was painted before or after the portraits of Louise. The model was probably the artist’s wife, Marie-Jeanne (Buzeau).

Autres temps, autre moeurs…

A pillar of rectitude, Berthe Morisot, and a farmer’s daughter aged sixteen

Left, Berthe Morisot, Baigneuse, 1891, oil on canvas, Private Collection
and right, Berthe Morisot, Nue allongée, bergère, 1891, oil on canvas. 58 x 86 cm, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain

BT, Meeting No25, 18 September, 2018


Marc Chagall, 1887-1985

Marc Chagall was born into poverty in 1887 near Vitebsk in modern Belarus. His father was a counterman clerk in a herring warehouse and his mother managed a small grocery shop. Marc cherished his parents, both during their lifetimes and after their death.When he first went to school, he was amazed that pens and ink had other uses than writing, and he soon became adept at drawing.


Marc Chagall, Apothecary in Vitebsk, 1908

An early modernist, he was associated with many artistic styles and created works in many forms, including painting, book illustration, stained glass, stage sets, ceramics and fine art prints.

From 1907 to 1910 he studied at the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts in Saint Petersburg, before moving to Paris

Marc Chagall, as a young man, and Bella, his first wife.

Influenced also by fauvism, his debt to the Orphism, a term coined by Apollinaire, of Robert Delaunay is clear in the semi-transparent overlapping panes of vivid colour in the sky above the city in Paris Through the Window


Marc Chagall, Paris through the Window, 1913, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA


Marc Chagall, Rain, 1911


Marc Chagall, Le Marchand des Bestiaux, 1912, Kunsthalle, Basel, Switzerland

He visited Russia in 1914 and was prevented by the outbreak of war from returning to Paris


Marc Chagall, The Birthday, 1915

He settled in his home town of Vitebsk where he was appointed Commissar for Art in 1918; he established the Vitebsk School of Popular Art from which he resigned in 1920

He moved to Moscow and executed his first designs for the State Jewish Theatre, a Yiddish company established in 1919 and shut down by the Soviet authorities in in 1948.

Marc Chagall, Wall Paintings for the State Jewish Theatre, c1921
Left to right: Dance, Literature, Drama.

He returned, after a short stay in Berlin, to Paris in 1923 where the following year he had his first retrospective.

During the 1930s he travelled to Palestine, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Italy.


Marc Chagall, The Vision, c1937, Tate Gallery, London


Marc Chagall, Autumn in the Village, c1940

During WW2 he fled to the USA where he has a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 1946


Photo portrait of Chagall in 1941, by Carl Van Vechten


Marc Chagall, The Crucified  1944, pencil, gouache & watercolour on paper, Israel Museum Jerusalem, Israel


Marc Chagall, Le Coq en amour, 1947, oil on canvas

In 1951 he visited Israel where he executed his first sculptures in ceramics and glass.


Marc Chagall, Lovers with Bouquet, 1951-2

Marc Chagall, Sposi Angora, and Fidanzatini, 1954

In the 60s he travelled widely, often in association with the large commissions which he was receiving;

Among these were windows for the synagogue of the Hadassah University Medical Centre in Jerusalem which were installed in 1962, a major breakthrough for him.

A ceiling for the Opéra in Paris,


and the Peace Window at the UN building in New York. With detail

Throughout this time he continued to paint.

There followed windows at Tudeley in Kent


and at Chichester Cathedral where he used red instead of his usual blue,


to match the colour of the tapestry by Ursula Benker Schirmer displayed nearby


Untitled glass sculpture, c1956-53



Reims Cathedral  (completed  1974, with six others


St. Stephen’s Church, Mainz
Installed in 1985

The window in Mainz cathedral, which viewed as a sign of good will between the Jewish and Christian faiths. This was his last major commission and probably his last major work.


He died in the same year, aged 98, and is buried with his second wife Vava Brodsky, in Saint Paul de Vence

MH, Meeting No25, 18 September 2018

Laura Knight, “Darkies in Baltimore”

The title is that of a chapter heading in her autobiography, “Oil Paint & Grease Paint”, published in 1936.

In 1923 the Knights holidayed in the Tyrol. Laura destroyed all of her work from the holiday, as she she was not satisfied with it.

In Florence, on the way back to England, they met the eminent American cardiologist Le Roy Crummer and his wife and struck up a friendship with them.


Laura Knight, Portrait of Le Roy Crummer, 1925, charcoal,, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Le Roy Crummer, 1872 – 1934.
During World War 1, he was a captain in the Medical Corps stationed at Camp Greenleaf, Georgia, where he taught cardiology to medical officers. In 1919, he was named Professor of Medicine at the University of Nebraska, a position that he held until 1925. As his health began to deteriorate from heart disease, he moved to Los Angeles, where he led the quiet life of a scholar and collector of rare books illustrating the early history of medicine. In the decade between 1920 and 1930, he and his wife Myrtle assiduously travelled to Europe in search of books and manuscripts.
It was on one of these trips that he met the Knights.

On his return to America, Crummer talked to colleagues about Harold’s work. As a result, Harold was invited to the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, to paint a series of portraits of the doctors in the hospital.
Off he went. Harold and Laura often parted for periods to paint in their own way.
Later, we shall see that Laura did the same when she followed the circus.

Three portraits painted by Harold during his stay in Baltimore:


Harold Knight, John Miller Turpin Finney, 1926, oil on canvas, 36 x 29 cm, John Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD, USA

John Finney, 1863-1942, was a surgeon at John Hopkins. During World War I, he was sent to France as the commander of Base Hospital 18, the Johns Hopkins Hospital unit. Shortly after arriving, he was named the chief surgical consultant to the American Expeditionary Force. After his tour in France, Finney was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal from the United States, the Commandeur de l’ Ordre de la Couronne from Belgium, and the Officier de la Legion d’Honneur from France.


Harold Knight, Elsie Mildred Lawler, 1927, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 cm, John Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD, USA

Born in Whitby, Ontario, she attended the University of Toronto, before entering The Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing in 1896. In 1910, she became superintendent of nurses and of the school of nursing at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, a position she held for more than thirty years. Her tenure at Johns Hopkins was characterised by steady advances in the standards of nursing education. She adapted the nursing curriculum to accommodate the hospital’s expansion, which more than tripled in size, adding new clinics and institutes for specialised branches of medicine.


Harold Knight, William Stevenson Baer, 1927, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 cm, John Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD, USA

William Baer, 1872-1931, was the founding director of orthopaedics at Johns Hopkins.
During World War I, Baer first served with the Johns Hopkins Base Hospital 18 and later as the orthopaedic consultant to General Pershing. While treating injured soldiers in France, Baer noted that wounds infested by maggots on the battlefield healed most rapidly. Recognising the importance of maggots in the debridement of wounds, he became a longtime proponent of their use in his surgical practice.
Baer had two passions: children and animals. He would keep wealthy patients waiting in his private consulting rooms, while he went out to tend to an injured dog.

Harold became more and more in demand, and one commission led to another. He was able to ask Laura to join him, and Baltimore they were the guests of Baer and his wife. He made an enormous impression on Laura, who admired him greatly.

Harold’s commissions took up a good deal of his time, and so, through Baer, Laura gained access to the segregated children’s and maternity wards at the hospital. She preferred sleeping babies, because they didn’t move!


Laura Knight, The Darky Baby, c1927

Laura Knight, Juanita, 1927

At first, the women in the maternity wards were suspicious of Laura, thinking that she wanted to caricaturize them, but were won over by her friendliness. She loved children.

Left, Laura Knight, Portrait of a Young Woman, c1927, and right, Laura Knight, Chloë, c1927


Laura Knight, The Piccaninny, 1927

In the hospital, Laura met Pearl Johnson, a nurse: they became friends. Pearl and her sister Ireen took Laura to concerts and lectures to observe what was an early phase of the Civil Rights movement.

Laura was surprised that she could not go out and discover a thriving African culture in the streets and the markets, not understanding that the people were several generations away from their roots. Pearl brought her models to pose for her.


Laura Knight, Madonna of the Cotton Fields or Mighty Like a Rose, c1927

A collection of paintings by other artists:


Annibale Carracci, attrib, Portrait of an African Slave Woman, ca. 1580s, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD


Augustus John, A West Indian Girl, c1940, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, UK


Paolo Veronese, School of, Portrait of a Moorish Woman, c1550s, oil on canvas on panel 38 x 25 cm


Rembrandt van Rejn, Two Young Africans


Abraham Janssens, Attrib; The Sibyl Agrippina, c1600, oil on canvas, 80 x 107 cm, Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany


Jean-Etienne Liotard, Portrait d’une jeune femme, late 19th Cent, pastel, 41 x 32 cm, Art Museum, St Louis, MO, USA

And finally:


Emma Soyer, Two Negro Children with a Book, 1831, Private Collection

The portrait was featured in the BBC TV programme “Fake of Fortune?”, on 2 September, 2018.

BT, Meeting No25, 18 September, 2018


Life is so unfair!

This short talk started as a joke. I found the image of the Venus de Milo and thought that it wasn’t fair that she had no arms, and then found Lakshmi, who has four!


Alexandros of Antioch?, Venus de Milo, 130-100 BC, marble, 203 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

The Venus de Milo is an ancient Greek statue and one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Initially it was attributed to the sculptor Praxiteles, but is now thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch. Created sometime between 130 and 100 BC, the statue is believed to depict Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. It is a marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm high. Part of an arm and the original plinth were lost following its discovery. The statue is named after the Greek island of Milos, where it was discovered.
The consensus is that the statue was found in two large pieces (the upper torso and the lower draped legs) along with several herms (pillars topped with heads), fragments of the upper left arm and left hand holding an apple, and an inscribed plinth.
In 1871, during the Paris Commune uprising, many public buildings were burned; the statue was secreted out of the Louvre Museum in an oak crate and hidden in the basement of Prefecture of Police. Though the Prefecture was burned, the statue survived undamaged.
In the autumn of 1939, the Venus was again packed for removal from the Louvre in anticipation of the outbreak of war. Scenery trucks from the Comédie-Française transported the Louvre’s masterpieces to safer locations in the countryside. During the war, the statue was sheltered safely in the Château de Valençay, along with the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo’s Slaves.
The great fame of the Venus de Milo during the nineteenth century was not simply the result of its admitted beauty; it also owed much to a major propaganda effort by the French authorities. In 1815, France had returned the Medici Venus, see below, to the Italians after it had been looted by Napoleon Bonaparte. The Medici Venus, regarded as one of the finest classical sculptures in existence, caused the French to promote the Venus de Milo as a greater treasure than that which they recently had lost. The statue was praised dutifully by many artists and critics as the epitome of graceful female beauty. However, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was among its detractors, labelling it “un grand gendarme”.


Ravi Varma, Lakshmi

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. She is the wife of Vishnu, one of the principal deities of Hinduism and the Supreme Being in the Vaishnavism Tradition. Lakshmi is also an important deity in Jainism and found in Jain temples. Lakshmi has also been a goddess of abundance and fortune for Buddhists, and was represented on the oldest surviving stupas and cave temples of Buddhism.
In Hindu religion, she was born from the churning of the primordial ocean and she chose Vishnu as her eternal consort. When Vishnu descended on the Earth as the avatars Rama and Krishna, Lakshmi descended as his respective consort.
The marriage and relationship between Lakshmi and Vishnu as wife and husband is the paradigm for rituals and ceremonies for the bride and groom in Hindu weddings.
Lakshmi is depicted in Indian art as an elegantly dressed, golden coloured woman with an owl as her vehicle, signifying the importance of economic activity in maintenance of life, her ability to move, work and prevail in confusing darkness.
She typically stands or sits like a yogin on a lotus pedestal and holds a lotus in her hand, a symbolism for fortune, self-knowledge and spiritual liberation. Her iconography shows her with four hands, which represent the four goals of human life considered important to the Hindu way of life: dharma, kāma, artha, and moksha.



Raja Ravi Varma, 1848-1906, was a celebrated Malayali Indian painter and artist. He is considered among the greatest painters in the history of Indian art for a number of aesthetic and broader social reasons. Firstly, his works are held to be among the best examples of the fusion of European techniques with a purely Indian sensibility. While continuing the tradition and aesthetics of Indian art, his paintings employed the latest European academic art techniques of the day. Secondly, he was notable for making affordable lithographs of his paintings available to the public, which greatly enhanced his reach and influence as a painter and public figure. Indeed, his lithographs increased the involvement of common people with fine arts and defined artistic tastes among common people for several decades. In particular, his depictions of Hindu deities and episodes from the epics and Puranas have received profound acceptance from the public and are found, often as objects of worship, across the length and breadth of India.

A selection of his work:

A Lady giving alms at the Temple; The Coquette; Mahatma Gandhi, who must have in his thirties at the time of the painting; A Girl after her Bath; A Galaxy of Musicians; Self Portrait; and, Sorrow.

Myths worldwide tend to have common elements: Botticelli’s Venus stands on a shell, while Lakshmi has chosen a lotus blossom:

In passing, the Venus de’ Medici:


Venus de’ Medici, c100 BC, 153cm, Gallerie degli Uffizzi, Florence, Italy

The Venus de’ Medici is a Hellenistic marble sculpture depicting the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. It is a 1st-century BCE marble copy, perhaps made in Athens, of a bronze original Greek sculpture.
The goddess is depicted in a fugitive, momentary pose, as if surprised in the act of emerging from the sea, to which the dolphin at her feet alludes.
The restoration of the arms was made by Ercole Ferrata, who gave them long tapering Mannerist fingers that did not begin to be recognised as out of keeping with the sculpture until the 19th century.
The origin of the Venus is undocumented. It was published in the collection at the Villa Medici, Rome, in 1638, although it was already known by 1559.
Lord Byron devoted five stanzas of “Childe Harold” to describing it.
It was one of the works of art shipped to Palermo in 1800 to escape the French, without success. It was shipped to Paris in 1803, but after Napoleon’s fall it arrived back in Florence on 27 December 1815.

Back to what started it all:


BT, Meeting No24, 4 September, 2018


Munnings, Horseless… or nearly

The talk at the last meeting, on Laura Knight in Lamorna, introduced Alfred Munnings as a selfish, flamboyant incomer to the Group. His disastrous marriage to Florence Carter-Wood and her subsequent suicide did not help to enhance his reputation. Also touched upon in the talk was the possible relationship between Florence and Gilbert Evans, who left the group to join the army.


Laura Knight, Sketch of Gilbert Evans

At Lamorna, Alfred displayed his love of horses, riding with the hunt whenever possible, and painting them all his life.

But he was more than this. The son of a Suffolk shepherd, he was an admirer of Constable. From humble beginnings he rose to be President of the Royal Academy and received a knighthood. He married twice, once to Florence Carter-Wood, and secondly in 1920, to Violet McBride, also a horse lover, with whom he lived for the rest of his life.


G W Lambert, Alfred Munnings

This talk presents, for the most part, his work which did not include horses


Alfred Munnings, Pike Fishing in January, 1898, oil on canvas, 31 x 38 cm, Private Collection


Alfred Munnings, The White Canoe, 1898, oil on canvas, 43 x 91 cm, Private Collection


Alfred Munnings, Study for ‘The Haunted House’, oil on board, 36 x 45 cm, The Munnings Art Museum, Colchester, UK


Alfred Munnings, Idle Moments or The Boathouse, 1906, oil on canvas, 51 x 61 cm, Private Collection


Alfred Munnings, Lamorna Cove, Cornwall, 1912-13, oil on canvas, 52 x 62 cm, Private Collection


Alfred Munnings, Lamorna Cove, Cornwall, date?, oil on canvas, The Munnings Art Museum, Colchester, UK


Alfred Munnings, Hop-Picking, 92 x 102 cm, oil on canvas, Art Museum, Sheffield, UK


Alfred Munnings, The Arbour, 1908, oil on canvas, 66 x 54 cm


Alfred Munnings, Violet, my wife, in the garden


Alfred Munnings, My Horse Is My Friend: The Artist’s Wife and Isaac, 1922, oil on canvas, Castle House Museum, Dedham, Essex, UK


Alfred Munnings, September Afternoon, 1939, oil on canvas, 64 x 76 cm, The Munnings Art Museum, Colchester, UK


Alfred Munnings, After the Party, 1897, oil on canvas, 76 x 56 cm, The Munnings Art Museum Colchester, UK


Alfred Munnings, Tagg’s Island, 1920, oil on canvas, 89 x 127 cm, The Munnings Art Museum, Colchester, UK


Alfred Munnings, Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron, 1918, oil on canvas, 51 x 61 cm, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Canada

Nearly three-quarters of the Canadian cavalry involved in this attack against German machine-gun positions at Moreuil Wood on 30 March 1918 were killed or wounded. This included Lieutenant G.M. Flowerdew, Lord Strathcona’s Horse, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for leading the charge. Unable to break the trench deadlock and of little use at the front, cavalry remained behind the lines for much of the war. During the German offensives of March and April 1918, however, the cavalry played an essential role in the open warfare that temporarily confronted the retreating British forces.

EH, Meeting No24, 4 September, 2018

A couple of comments


Laura Knight, Hop Pickers, Malvern, oil on canvas

Laura also painted hop pickers. The painting depicts gypsies, of whom she painted many examples


Ernest Meissonnier, Friedland, 1807, c 1861-75, oil on canvas, 136 x 243 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA

See the painting of Flowerdew’s charge, above


Laura Knight, The Ballet

The Ballets Russes, under the direction of Diaghilev, first performed in London in 1911, and Valentine Gross-Hugo painted several scenes from their productions.

These two appeared in the earlier talk on the exhibition “Belles de Jour“:

Left: Valentine Gross-Hugo, Karsavina dans le “Spectre de la rose », 1912, wax on wood, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes
and right:
Valentine Gross-Hugo, Karsavina et Nijinsky dans le “Spectre de la rose”, 1912, wax on wood, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes

The paintings are in wax on wood, a supple technique, enabling the artist to represent the gentle, light movements of the dancers.

At a later date, Laura also painted Karsavina:


Laura Knight, Karsavina in ”The Firebird”, date?, oil on canvas, Private Collection

When they returned to London from Cornwall after the war, Harold and Laura became passionately fond of the ballet and went to performances almost every night.

When the Ballets Russes performed in London, it was often in set pieces at a variety theatre such as the Colisseum, alongside such acts as the male impersonator, Vesta Tilley or the comedian, Harry Tate.

Initially, Laura had to sketch from the stalls.


Laura Knight Carnival, 1916, oil on canvas, 76 x 102 cm, Private Collection

This was painted during an earlier visit to London.
Laura destroyed most of her early ballet paintings, and this is a rare example.
Centre stage are Tchernicheva & Idjikawski, while Enrico Cecchetti, the great dancer and dancing teacher of the era is probably at the left. By the time the Knights met him he was getting old, having been born in 1850, and appeared largely in mime parts. He and is wife became friends of the Knights, and visited them often in Soho, where Giuseppina cooked for them.

The painting was earlier shown in the earlier talk on Laura Knight in Newlyn.


Laura Knight, Carnival, 1920, oil on canvas, 102 x 132 cm, City Galleries, Manchester, UK

The breakthrough in Laura’s paintings of the ballet came when her frame maker, Mr Steer, who seemed to know everybody, obtained permission from Diaghilev himself for her to paint and sketch back stage.

This shows the Ballet Russes before the rise of the curtain for a performance of Carnival at Drury Lane in 1920, showing from left to right Diaghilev in top hat; Massine, red coat; Karsavina tying her shoe; Idzikowski, as Harlequin; Sokolova, pointing foot, as Papillon; Woizikowski, in striped tights as Floreston; Cecchetti, in buff coat and green gloves as Pantaloon; Tchernicheva, in blue skirt, as Chiarina

There was a suggestion at the time that the work was similar to Manet’ painting, Le Ballet espagnol of 1862, in which he depicted the Spanish company who were dancing at that time at the Hippodrome in Paris. Among them are Lola de Valence, seated, and, standing, the famous dancer Mariano Camprubi.


Edouard Manet, Le Ballet espagnol, 1862, oil on canvas, 61 x 91 cm, Philips Collection, Washington, DC, USA


Laura Knight, Behind the scenes in the coulisses, 1920, oil on canvas, 64 x 56 cm, Art Gallery, Falmouth, UK

Laura lent the dresser her ubiquitous red jacket, to add a touch of colour to the painting

Shown at the earlier talk on Falmouth Art Gallery


Laura Knight, Portrait of the Ballerina, Lydia Lopokova, date?, oil on canvas, Private Collection

Lydia Lopokova was the first individual dancer to sit for Laura. Althogh very formal in the beginning, she warmed to Laura’s personality, and became friendly. She confided that, although a principal dancer, she was too small and the wrong shape for the principal rôles. She married the economist Maynard Keynes instead. He was homosexual and a member of the Bloomsbury Group, but in spite of all that, the marriage was a happy one. Keynes’ lover Duncan Grant was best man at the wedding.

Harold also painted her.


Harold Knight, Lydia Lopokova, date?, oil on canvas, 102 x 76 cm, Private Collection

Left:  Laura Knight, Dressing Room No3, 1924, 64 x 76 cm, Atkinson Art Museum, Stockport, UK
and right: Laura Knight, Ballerinas at the Makeup Table, 1957, oil on canvas, 91 x 61 cm, Private collection

The two works were painted more than thirty years apart, showing Laura’ enduring passion for the stage.

One day Laura more or less accidentally found her way into the dressing rooms and became fascinated. After a while Lopokova was put out and sent a message reminding her that she should be painting on stage.


Laura Knight, The Ballet Girl and the Dressmaker, 1930, oil on canvas, 96 x 122 cm, Private Collection

The model was a dancer named Barbara Bonnar; ‘…a vital and sparkling young creature, [who] was rehearsing for a show at the time and many of the sittings had to take place in the early morning before she went to the theatre.’ A detailed figure drawing for the painting is in the collection of Nottingham City Art Gallery. The artist’s own dressmaker, Miss Fergusson, posed for the woman making the alterations to the dress; ‘her hands and type were perfect.’ The picture was originally intended to hang in the office of the new headquarters of the H Earl Hoover business in Chicago but Hoover was so delighted with it that he decided to hang it in pride of place in his home.


Laura Knight, Ballet, 1936, oil on canvas, 65 x 76 cm, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool, UK

Inevitably, she was from time to time compared to Degas


Edgar Degas, Danseuses, 1884, pastel on paper, 75 x 73 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

Laura worked in other media for her ballet work. These two aquatints show the development of an idea:

Left: Laura Knight, The Three Graces, 1926, aquatint
and right: Laura Knight, Three Graces of the Ballet, 1927, aquatint

Two more dressing room scenes, painted at different periods. In spite of her passion for the genre, she did not just depict the ballet, and her output was immense and varied

Left: Laura Knight, The Ballet Shoe, oil on canvas, 1932, 43 x 38 cm, Museums and Art Galleries, Brighton and Hove, UK
and right: Laura Knight, A Dressing Room at Drury Lane, 1952, oil on canvas

Although this talk has been about the ballet, Laura painted scenes of many different theatrical production, both on stage and off.

Just one example of her work:


Laura Knight, The Theatre Wardrobe, date?, oil on canvas, 97 x 66 cm, Private Collection

BT, Meeting No24, 4 September, 2018