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)

May Day

Dame Laura Knight, R.A., R.W.S. (1877-1970)
May Day
signed 'Laura Knight' (lower left) and inscribed '"May Day"/By DAME LAURA KNIGHT D.B.E., R.A.' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
20 x 24 in. (51 x 61 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 21 July 1944, lot 77 (7 gns to Berluany(?)).
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, Olympia, 21 March 2007, lot 109.
Special notice

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

Looking back on her days in Cornwall, Knight felt that nature had, 'opened her own paint box' and she must 'ride in harmony with the mood of the wild' (L. Knight, The Magic of a Line, 1965, pp. 136-7). While her version of events is undoubtedly true, it is also the case that she was well aware of the current trend towards more Impressionistic techniques in Edwardian painting, seen at its most obvious in the work of Clausen, Sims, Orpen and John. Painting in Cornwall was just as cosmopolitan at this point as it had been in the first phases of the Newlyn School in the 1880s. Thus, when she paints May Day blossom in a joyous spirit it is in part prompted by a sense of the current possibilities within the medium.

May Day is therefore one of her first lucid statements on the subject and sunlight is the key, raising some of the tumbling white flowers to a brilliance beyond that of the sky tone. And underneath their canopy, where the girls are examining their specimens, there is a deep, warm and mysterious shade. These are probably the same infants who appear in In the Sun, Newlyn, c. 1910 (Private Collection) and the flowering trees are those to which she would return in The May Tree (sold in these Rooms, 6 March 1992, lot 6) and Spring (Tate Britain), her Royal Academy pictures of 1915 and 1916.

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