Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Life drawing, nude three-quarter view, circa 1920

SKU: 7279
14 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (37 x 21.5 cm.)

Height – 37cm x Width – 21.5cm


The Artist’s Family; Private collection.

This life study probably relates to the seated study of Eileen Knights entered for the Rome Scholarship, 1920, with which Knights became the first woman to win a Scholarship in Decorative Painting to the British School at Rome.

Life Study, Eileen Knights, oil on canvas, 1920 UCL Art Museum, 

University College London.

Lessons in anatomy were a central feature of Slade training. Knights attended the lectures given by Professor George Dancer Thane,
Knights’ youngest sister Eileen was a willing sitter and would subsequently act as a model in many compositions.  Knights submitted this painting for the first round of the Rome Scholarship competition to fulfil the requirement of a figure from the life in oil’. Using her mother’s cutting-out scissors, Knights cut her 14-year-old sister’s hair short to allow the full force of daylight to fall on the flesh, provoking indignation from her father.    

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Winifred Knights
1899 - 1947

Winifred Knights was born in Streatham, London in 1899. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art (1915’17, 1918’20 and 1926’27) . In 1919 she jointly won the Slade Summer Composition Competition with A Scene in a Village Street with Mill-Hands Conversing. In 1920, she became the first woman to win the Scholarship in Decorative Painting awarded by the British School at Rome. She remained in Italy until December 1925, marrying fellow Rome Scholar Thomas Monnington (1902’1976) in April 1924. On her return to England, Knights received a commission to paint an altarpiece for the Milner Memorial Chapel in Canterbury. A major commission for the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, on which she had been working for five years, remained unconcluded at her early death, aged 47.
Throughout her life, Winifred Knights produced work through which she explored women’s autonomy. Presenting herself as the central protagonist, and selecting models from her inner circle, she rewrote and reinterpreted fairy tale and legend, biblical narrative and pagan mythology. She was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2016.