In the Ring depicts the Hungarian trainer Captain Anker, who was only 4 foot 6 inches tall, under canvas at Carmo's Circus with his Hungarian bred horses 'Pinto' and 'Apollo', the latter standing on two hind legs. 'Apollo' was originally purchased by the circus as lion meat, but Captain Anker realised the horse’s potential as a circus performing horse and soon stopped that idea.
The work was painted shortly after the great uninsured fire at Carmo's Circus in March 1930, which destroyed the great tent, when the artist joined the touring circus in Hanley. In her autobiography Laura Knight recalls the fire and how Mrs Anker valiantly saved their wagon, of which they were so proud, by swabbing out pieces of lighted canvas that kept falling. At the time Carmo's Circus was in great financial difficulties, with salaries and wages in arrears and doom and despondency hanging over most of the circus performers. By contrast Laura Knight has created an image of joyful entertainment which revels in the colour and spectacle of the circus, a subject that had long fascinated her.
The present picture was painted from a study for similar larger painting, Under the Big Top, that portrays the clowns Joe Craston and Marba standing by the Ring entrance watching the show.
We are grateful to R. John Croft, F.C.A., the artist's great-nephew, for his assistance in preparing this catalogue entry. The picture will appear in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Dame Laura Knight.