Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Winifred Knights (1899-1947)   BIOGRAPHY

Figure Study, ‘Scenes from the Life of St Martin of Tours’, circa 1929
Mounted (ref: 4293)

Pencil, 8 1/8 x 5 1/8 in. (20.5 x 13 cm.)


Provenance: the artist’s estate
Literature: Winifred Knights, exh. cat.,The Fine Art Society, London, 1995, pp. 56–7 (similar work repr. p. 43)

Knights began work in 1928, eventually finishing the altarpiece five years later in 1933. It was to be the last major work completed by Knights. Bishop Bell, who was involved with commissions for religious works from numerous artists including Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Augustus Lunn and Hans Feibusch, described the St Martin Altarpiece as ‘one of the most lovely, delicate and deeply felt modern religious paintings that I know’ (G.K.A. Bell,‘The Church and the Artist’, The Studio, September 1942, vol. 124, no. 594, p. 81).

Glyn Jones was, perhaps predictably, less enthusiastic:‘Of the painting by the late Miss Knights, I say this: the few other paintings of hers which I have seen I have much admired, but I can make nothing of this one, beyond the usual technical skill.’ (Glyn Jones, 8 April 1950, letter to Mr Rushbury).

Winifred Knights (1899-1947)

Painter and draughtsman, born in London, married to the artist Walter Thomas Monnington. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, 1915-17 and 1918-20. Her teachers included Henry Tonks and Fred Brown and she personified the Slade School tradition under their reign. In 1919 she won the Slade Summer Composition Prize (for Mill Hands on Strike) and the following year the coveted Rome Scholarship. She remained in Rome 1920-25, marrying fellow Rome Scholar Thomas Monnington in April 1924. One of her principal works was The Marriage at Cana for the British School at Rome, now in the National Gallery of New Zealand in Wellington. The Tate Gallery also holds her work, including her iconic winning entry for the Rome Scholarship, The Deluge, 1919. Knights died in London at the age of 48.

Had Knights produced more during her relatively short life she might well today be considered among the major women painters of the twentieth century.

Selected literature: Paul Liss, Winifred Knights, The British School at Rome/Fine Art Society plc, 1995

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