Study Visit: Winifred Knights - The Open College of the Arts
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Study Visit: Winifred Knights

There are still spaces available for the study visit this weekend at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.
Winifred Knights was the most promising painter of her generation at a time when it was difficult for women to have a career in art. Her work embraced the new modernism of the early 20th century together with the traditional concerns and draughtsmanship taught at the Slade School of Art. At that time the Slade was the most progressive art school in Britain and her predecessors included Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, Augustus and Gwen John, Wyndam Lewis and David Bomberg. It was also a school where “Instruction and opportunities are available on an equal basis to both sexes”, the Slade being the first art school to allow female students access to the life room.
She started out studying illustration but soon changed over to the Decorative Painting School where her success in this area led her to her become the first female winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome. Influenced by the Italian Quattrocento and the frescos of Piero della Francesca and Masaccio, her modern take on the old masters lead to many prestigious commissions, which she executed with great care and consideration.
At the Dulwich Picture Gallery the exhibition features her five major paintings, which are backed up with numerous drawings, preliminary cartoons and many compositional studies showing how the ideas develop from initial sketch through to the finished work. Her success however was short lived. Dying of a brain tumour at the early age of 47 meant that her position in British art was soon forgotten.
This is a fascinating exhibition for students of painting, drawing and art history or anyone interested in feminist art of the early modernist period. She has been hailed as an ‘unknown genius’ and with greater inclusion now a feature of art galleries presentations her reputation is now assured. Her painting ‘The Deluge’ takes pride of place at Tate Britain and at Dulwich there is a chance to see possibly her masterpiece, ‘The Santissima Trinita’ (1924-30).
There is more than just one strand in the story of art that passes for modernity in the last century and this is now beginning to be retold and represented. The study day this Saturday at the Dulwich Picture Gallery will introduce students to a neglected painter who reputation is now being reassessed and brought back into the light.
Bring your sketchbook, meet your fellow students and join tutor Jim Cowan for an educational study day at the Dulwich Picture Gallery on Saturday 2 July.
Please note as this is a ticketed event there will be a non refundable £10 booking fee for students, to reserve your place please complete this form or email for more information.

Posted by author: James Cowan
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3 thoughts on “Study Visit: Winifred Knights

  • I couldn’t make the study visit due to work commitments but did finally go along to see the show at the end of August. I thought it was an interesting show particularly as the curators included studies and preparatory work which helped me to understand her work processes – it was good to see work from an unknown artist and very insightful to find out about how the slade school of art operated and trained their students during the early part of the last century and helpful to contrast art education today in our different world

    • With the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition on at the same time it was interesting to contrast the life and work of these two modernist painters. Situated on different continents, they produced work that was influenced by their different surroundings, opportunities and traditions. Why one artist becomes internationally famous while the other is neglected and forgotten is worth thinking about. Continuing with this theme, the enterprising Dulwich Picture Gallery will be showing the first retrospective of Vanessa Bell’s paintings in February next year. Vanessa Bell of course was the sister of Virginia Woolf.

      • I saw the Okeeffe a couple of weeks after seeing Knights at Dulwich and was also struck with how both artists were influenced by their surrounding landscape and how they seemed to capture the essence of something unique and personal and certainly visionary , but also how different their approaches seem to be! I think it is interesting to see two London shows devoted to female artists and interesting that one was completely unknown and the other internationally acclaimed-

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