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Dame Laura Knight, R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Dame Laura Knight, R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)

Two young girls walking on the coast

Dame Laura Knight, R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)
Two young girls walking on the coast
signed 'Laura Knight' (lower left)
pencil and watercolour heightened with bodycolour on board
21 x 22 7/8 in. (53.3 x 58.1 cm.)
London, Leicester Galleries, 1912.
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
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Lot Essay

In 1911 Harold and Laura Knight moved up to Trewarveneth, on Paul Hill in Cornwall, to occupy a house that had recently been vacated by Thomas Cooper Gotch and his family. With its magnificent views of Mount’s Bay, and with Newlyn, Mousehole and Lamorna Cove in easy reach, we can imagine the artist free-wheeling downhill to her favourite painting locations. At Lamorna, in seclusion, she would paint bathers disrobing on the shore. At the same time, up on the height Knight began a remarkable series of watercolours characterized by low horizons and glorious skies. These include In the Fields, On the Cliffs, and the resplendent Wind and Sun (all private collections), which led directly to The Flower, her major Royal Academy oil painting of 1912. The rediscovery of Two young girls walking on the coast with its freshly mown field, distant headland and figures, shown in full-length entering from the right, provides an important new link in this chain. Further research may reveal the original title of the work.

It is possible that this remarkable sequence was prompted by recent contact with the work of William Orpen whose Howth headland paintings had begun to appear at the New English Art Club. Knight and Orpen had met in London in 1910 and as in his rendering of Afternoon on the Cliff (1910, private collection), she would set her models against the sky. Like his, they would be more naturalistic than those of Augustus John. But first of all, she must obtain their services, and in the summer of 1911 she and Harold hired three London models, one of whom, Dorothy Snell, a former ‘Tiller Girl’, was to marry Harold’s brother, Edgar. Florence Carter-Wood was also posing for the Knights at this time.

However, the strikingly modern aspect of Laura’s works – and the present example in particular - lies in the fact that figures are observed in rigorously formal, one might say, ‘reductive’ circumstances. The aperture opens on the heavens and they walk into or across the picture plane. In a sense their presence banishes or reduces the horizon to its lowest point, all but obliterating topographic detail in the back projection. On London visits Knight was a theatre-goer. She would have been aware of the new architectonic sets of Gordon Craig. Yet although this extraordinary composition owes something to these experiences, its light and air was natural. Coolly premeditated, its ‘nature’ becomes atmosphere animated only by unheard birdsong and quiet conversation.

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