• 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 54

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

    Old Gipsy Woman, 'Granny Smith'

    Price Realised  


    Dame Laura Knight, R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)
    Old Gipsy Woman, 'Granny Smith'
    signed 'Laura Knight' (lower right) and inscribed '"Old Gipsy Woman"'
    (on the stretcher)
    oil on canvas
    24 x 16 in. (61 x 40.6 cm.)
    Painted in 1938.

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    The present lot depicts Granny Smith, who Laura painted several times - Hop Picking Granny Knowles an old hand (c. 1938) Canterbury Museum; Gypsy Splendour (1939) Nottingham Museum, and a picture of her with her daughter Gypsy and Child (sold Christies, 19 June 1997 Lot 21).

    When Carmo eventually closed down his touring circus, Laura was forced to find new subjects for her painting. Upon the suggestion of her friend Alfred Munnings that she painted the races at Epsom,
    she visited the course with her old circus friends, Joe and Ally Bert. Laura was drawn to the activities around the race course and the gypsies with their brightly coloured clothing.

    Caroline Fox (Dame Laura Knight, Oxford, 1988, p. 85) writes: 'The gypsies were happy to pose for Laura and she was able to produce a number of extremely sensitive portraits as a result. Perhaps one of the most outstanding is the painting of the old gypsy granny wearing all her best clothes, entitled Gypsy Splendour. Her vigorous but sensitive handling of paint has lent itself particularly well to portraying this wrinkled but impressive old lady. One feels that whatever blows life has dealt her, including a broken nose (as she told Laura: 'It was me 'usband, twice!'), nothing will disturb her dignified calm'.

    The gypsies took to the artist and invited her to their camp on the Common in Iver, Buckinghamshire where she painted many studies of their life. Laura also met some of the gypsy families in Herefordshire, painting many well known gypsy hop pictures. A period of rich productivity for Laura, the artist reminisced 'I look back to those days when I was accepted as one of themselves by the gypsies at Iver. It was one of the most inspiring times of my working life' (see C. Fox, Dame Laura Knight, Oxford, 1988, p. 85).

    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 purchased the work direct from the artist on 21 May 1949, and then by descent.


    London, Royal Academy, The Second United Artists' Exhibition, 1942, no. 60.
    Nottingham Castle Museum, 1970, no. 92.