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Laura Knight | Ballet dancers

Dame Laura Knight, (née Johnson), (4 August 1877 - 7 July 1970) was an English artist who worked in oils, watercolours, etching, engraving and drypoint. Knight was a painter in the figurative, realist tradition and who embraced English Impressionism.
In her long career, Knight was among the most successful and popular painters in Britain.
Her success in the male-dominated British art establishment paved the way for greater status and recognition for women artists.

Ballet and Theatre

In 1919, Laura and Harold Knight moved to London, seeking new artistic challenges and markets for their work. For Laura, evenings spent watching the Ballets Russes during their London seasons at the Alhambra or Coliseum theatres provided "complete satisfaction for every aesthetic sense".

Incorporating set and costume designs by artists including Henri Matisse, these productions helped introduce European modernism into Britain.
However, unlike some artistic contemporaries, Knight sought inspiration in the more intimate experience of the dancers backstage, an approach pioneered in the nineteenth century by the French artist Edgar Degas.

Granted unique backstage access, Knight set up her easel in the cramped dressing room of prima ballerina Lydia Lopokova.

Following the company’s departure from London in 1922, Knight worked backstage at the Regent Theatre painting, among others, actress Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as she prepared to play Juliet.
Knight felt a kinship with female performers, whom she identified as "fellow workers"; women whose dedication to their art mirrored her own commitment to painting.