• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7437

    Victorian and Traditonalist Pictures

    15 November 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 44

    Dame Laura Knight, D.B.E., R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)

    The Mens' Dressing Wagon

    Price Realised  


    Dame Laura Knight, D.B.E., R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)
    The Mens' Dressing Wagon
    signed 'Laura Knight' (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    24 1/8 x 20 1/8 in. (61.3 x 51 cm.)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Explaining her attraction to the circus, Laura Knight wrote in her autobiography, Oil Paint and Grease Paint: 'It is the display of indomitable courage that one sees and admires ... Gravitation is defied - the impossible is possible ... It is the feeling of defiance for the laws of nature that makes the circus people a race apart; they are one, although gathered from all races. Circus performers are the hardest-working, the cleanest-living people I have met, with a a pride in their bodies, an ideal of attainment, and an infinite capacity for endurance'.

    This picture of one of the high-wire performing artists changing behind the scenes, dates from the 1930s, when Laura Knight travelled round the South coast of England with Fred Karno's Circus. The performers travelled widely, as indicated by the luggage labels on their trunks.
    Knight's association with the circus began when Alfred Munnings took her to the circus at Olympia and introduced her to Captain Bertram Mills, prior to her departure for America. She made friends with the performers and in particular with Joe Bert, an acrobat who with advancing years became a tumbling clown. As she later recalled, having spent many Christmas seasons at Olympia, 'between the Russian Ballet seasons and Barry Jackson's London presentations, painting the circus became a habit'.

    We are grateful to R. John Croft, the artist's nephew, for his help in preparing this catalogue entry. The picture will be featured in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.