WINIFRED KNIGHTS EXHIBITION AT DULWICH PICTURE GALLERY
Winifred Knights in her studio at the British School at Rome, 1923
The exhibition of Winifred Knights work at Dulwich picture gallery is the first-ever retrospective of her work.
And, like the recent Eric Ravilious exhibition, there’s probably something for everyone.
Room one includes sketch books from her time at the Slade, a design for a wall decoration plus a couple of small drawings – one of Bow Cottage, West Hoathly, Sussex and the other of the artist’s mother and sisters at Tanners Field, West Hoathly. (Covering her time at the Slade school of fine art 1915 – 1917).
Room two (Slade 1918 – 1919) includes a striking portrait of Anna Matilda Fryer who was the employer of Winifred’s father; and a decorative painting ‘Leaving the Munitions Works’ (Winifred Knights saw an explosion in 1917 at a munitions works which led to her having a nervous breakdown, leaving her to take one year out from the Slade).
Room three includes her success at the Rome scholarship in decorative painting (1920) and a Daily Graphic dated February 1921 where, on the front page above the fold, a headline says: “Girl artist remodels the flood.”
In 1921 Winifred Knights became the first woman to win the prestigious scholarship in decorative painting awarded by the British School at Rome. Founded in 1912 the scholarship was worth £250 per annum for a three-year tenure and worth more than seven times the value of a Slade scholarship.
One of four candidates, she was unanimously awarded the prize. Judges included John Singer Sargent and one of her former tutors Philip Wilson Steer.
The exhibition shows the actual painting, compositional studiers and cartoons – and will give would-be art students an idea of the challenges they face and the dedication they will need if they decide to follow their chosen path.
(From left: The Santissima Trinita; Anna Matilda Fryer; Edge of Abruzzi – boat with three people on a lake; A view to the east from the British school at Rome.)
Room four (The British school at Rome) includes The Marriage at Cana. One of the main sources of inspiration for her submission was Piero della Francesca’s fresco series illustrating the ‘Legend of the True Cross’. and a small work ‘A view to the east from the British school at Rome’.
Winifred Knights admired the 15th century Italian Quattrocento artists and sculptors which incorporated the more classic forms developed by Roman and Greek sculptors.
There are also some studies for larger compositions which apparently never saw the light of day. Winifred Knights described her own working methods as “horribly slow.”
Notes handed out for the press view say that studies for Paradise, Janus’s Daughter and Bathsheba survive but it is unclear whether final versions of these works were ever completed.
Room five (Italy 1924 – 25) includes The Santissima Trinita painted 1924 – 1930 and the Edge of Abruzzi featuring a boat with three people on a lake. But with both paintings, especially the second, it is the landscape in the background which captures the eye. Room six includes a variety of portraits of Winifred Knights by different artists.
The above-mentioned exhibits are very much a personal choice. What visitors will not get the benefit of – and which the press view did – was the amazingly enthusiastic introduction of Sacha Llewellyn who has curated this exhibition.
Sacha, in the press notes, says: “This exhibition, in bringing together a lifetime of work, will create an irrefutable visual argument that Winifred Knights was one of the most talented and striking artists of her generation.”
And I’m not going to argue with that.
Winifred Knights died in 1944 from an undiagnosed brain tumour.
End date: 18 September 2016
Open: 10am – 5pm, Tuesday – Sunday (Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays)
Price: Adult £12.50; Senior Citizens £11.50; Concessions (students, disabled, ES40, Art Fund & Museums Association Members) £7; Children and Members FREE
Lenders for this exhibition range from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa to Canterbury cathedral, many private collectors, the British Museum and the Tate gallery London which purchased The Deluge in 1989 with the help of the Friends of the Tate – and where it should, in the wake of this exhibition, be on show much more often.
Fashion Late: Winifred Knights’ great-granddaughters to model contemporary interpretations
Dulwich Picture Gallery will open late on 8 July for an evening of fashion and art inspired by the unique style of the award-winning Slade School artist, Winifred Knights (1899-1947).
Alongside a late opening of the major new exhibition of the artist’s work, visitors can enjoy catwalk shows featuring contemporary interpretations of the artist’s unique style, talks and a vintage accessories-making workshop.
Knights’ great-granddaughters, Jane and Elizabeth, will be amongst those modelling contemporary interpretations of Knights’ unique dress by acclaimed designer duo Terry Macey and Angelika Elsebach. Their collection of bohemian-inspired dresses have been designed exclusively for the Gallery to reflect the artist’s relaxed tailoring and muted colour palette.
Knights had a creative approach to style which she used to express her artistic identity. She went against the grain of traditional 1930s dress and designed her own garments from hand-spun and hand-woven cloth, combining elements from Renaissance painting. Fashion historian Jayne Shrimpton will deliver short talks introducing Knights’ personal style and the rising trend of oppositional dress in Victorian and Edwardian Britain.
Visitors can unleash their own creativity in accessories workshops and, with guidance from an expert tutor, make hat pins, broaches, neck pieces and more. Jazz-era cocktails will be available throughout the evening.