Laura Knight was raised in impoverished circumstances in Derbyshire where her mother taught her to draw and paint. At the age of fourteen she entered the Nottingham School of Art, one of the youngest students ever to join the school, and it was here that she met the artist Harold Knight whom she eventually married. They had their first London exhibition in 1906. Soon afterwards, the Knights moved to an artists’ colony in Cornwall where Laura worked in an Impressionist style, painting en plein air.
After the First World War, the Knights moved to London where Laura became absorbed in new subject matter including the ballet, theatre and circus. In the early 1920s, she experimented and developed other artistic techniques that included etchings, aquatint, linocuts, woodcuts and lithographs.
Knight also produced a wide range of portraits of figures such as George Bernard Shaw and Anna Pavlova as well as portraits of clowns, gypsies and children. In 1929 she was appointed a DBE, the first woman artist to receive this title, and in 1936 she became the first woman elected to the Royal Academy. She was also an official war artist during World War II and, following the war, she was the official artist of the Nuremberg trials.
Knight continued to paint until her final days