Laura Knight Portraits

Reappraising the work of the pioneering artist Laura Knight, one of the 20th century’s foremost theatrical and portrait painters, whose reputation fell into obscurity in the latter part of the century.

The prodigiously talented Laura Knight was for the early and mid part of the 20th-century a highly successful painter. Perhaps best known for her vibrant depictions of back stage life at the ballet, Knight had a masterly ability to capture the tensions that governed this secret world.

Born in 1877 into impoverished circumstances, Knight studied at Nottingham College of art where she met the painter Harold Knight. The two became enraptured with the demimonde, living in artist colonies in Cornwall and North Yorkshire and becoming friends with painters like Alfred Munnings.

This exhibition focuses on 35 portraits made by Knight, with subjects including gypsies, land girls and the dancers of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes

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Laura Knight was very much a part of bohemian Britain, and a great friend of many of the nation’s leading artists, writers and performers. Over the course of her career she was commissioned to paint the dancers of the Ballet Russes, including Lydia Lypokova who later became Lady Keynes, and was an official artist at the Nuremberg Trials.

Other sitters include George Bernard Shaw, the stunt and cabaret artiste Joan Rhodes and the pianist Ethel Bartlett.

Venue details

Laing Art Gallery New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne Tyne and Wear NE1 8AG 0191 232 7734

Entry details

£2.50 with National Art Pass (standard entry £6)

Tue – Sat

10am – 5pm


2pm – 5pm

Book online via the Laing Art Gallery website

What the critics say


"In a tour-de-force of realist candour, Knight employs sculptural draftsmanship and a sheeny, mobile light to immortalise two women in a moment of fleeting intimacy as if she were an Old Master capturing two classical heroes."

  • Rachel Spence
  • FT


"Her stylised portraits of ballet dancers and the stark, simple art deco depiction of Ethel Bartlett reveal Knight’s ability to capture subtle and unfussy beauty as powerfully as her more celebrated contemporaries ."