• Victorian and British Impressi auction at Christies

    Sale 5881

    Victorian and British Impressionist Pictures including Drawings and Watercolours

    18 November 2009, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 55

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

    Circus People

    Price Realised  


    Dame Laura Knight, R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)
    Circus People
    signed 'Laura Knight' (lower left), and inscribed 'Circus People' (on the frame)
    oil on canvas
    24 x 20 in. (61 x 50.8 cm.)
    Painted circa 1928.

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    The present work was painted at the Lyric Hall in Islington. The two clowns in the scene are the Circus Liberty horse stunt riders, Max and Marba, the latter in the background, looking over the shoulder of one the Liberty Horse Circus riders bandaging her wrist. Max also appears in the left side of the artist's large painting of 1928, Charivari or The Grand Parade (Newport Museum and Art Gallery, Gwent).

    In Laura's autobiography The Magic of a Line p. 203 she wrote how she first started painting circus scenes by a chance comment from a Paddington railway porter; in 1928 Laura painted circus scenes in between the Russian Ballet seasons and Barry Jackson's London presentations. The following year Laura was introduced to Bertram Mills by Alfred Munnings and began working on scenes from his circus at Olympia. A year or two later Laura met Fred Carmo when he teamed up with Bertram Mills. It was with the Fred Carmo Circus that Laura signed up for two shillings and six pence a week, so she could accompany without hindrance the circus initially on its South coast tour, then later on its Midland tour, meeting up with Joe Bert ( the Circus clown) and his wife Ally Bert who then became lifelong friends.
    It has been confirmed that the picture will feature in R. John Croft's Catalogue Raisonné of the artist's works.

    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.


    Gerald Miskin, by whom purchased direct from the artist at her studio on 21 May 1949, and by descent.


    London, Leicester Galleries, 1928, no. 27.
    Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Autumn Exhibition, 1937, no. 572.