Once Carmo's circus had closed down, Laura Knight was looking for new subject matter. Her old friend Alfred Munnings suggested she accompany him to the races at Epsom: 'Just the sort of thing to suit you ... come with Violet and me and I will show you around'. That visit never happened, but Laura Knight thereafter became a regular visitor to the races with her friend Ally Bert, widow of the clown, Joe Bert. At Joe's funeral she met a Mr Sully who drove Joe's coffin to his grave in a Rolls Royce. This car - which allowed her to paint in comfort in all weathers - sitting atop the hood when fine, and inside when wet - became essential to her expeditions. It was at Epsom that Laura Knight met the gypsies who became her regular subjects. She loved their characterful faces and colourful clothes. One, known as Old Granny Smith, invited Laura to their base camp on The Common at Iver, Buckinghamshire. Gypsy subjects were also painted at Malvern, and while hop picking in Herefordshire.
Comparable pictures to the present work can be seen in Dundee Art Gallery - Ascot Finery; Hereford City Museum - Gypsies at Ascot; Nottingham Castle Museum - Gypsy Splendour; Aberdeen Art Gallery - Romany Belles and Bradford Art Galleris - Tell your Fortune, Lady.
We are grateful to John Croft, F.C.A., the artist's great nephew, for his help in researching this picture, which will appear in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Dame Laura Knight.