Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Study for St Martin altarpiece, circa 1928

SKU: 3121

Pencil on paper, 6 x 4 3/4 in. (15 x 12cm)

(8 x 6 3/4 in. (20 x 17cm) framed)


Height – 15cm x Width – 12cm


The Artists Family

Provenance: the artist’s estate
Literature: Winifred Knights, exh. cat.,The Fine Art Society, London, 1995, pp. 56–7 (similar work repr. p. 43)

In 1928, Knights received a prestigious commission to paint a reredos for the Milner Memorial Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral, which the architect Sir Herbert Baker was designing. The painting took several years to complete, and it was difficult for Knights to maintain the clarity of her original conception, presented in numerous preparatory studies, while respecting the preconceptions of the architect. 
Taking inspiration from Sulpicius Severus’ fourth-century Vita Martini, Knights records three scenes from the life of St. Martin of Tours: St Martin gives half his cloak to a beggar; St Martin restores a child to life; St. Martin’s vision of Christ. 
The central scene, St. Martin restores a child to life, clearly held a deep significance for Knights, who had recently given birth to a stillborn son. Knights includes herself among the onlookers as well as members of her family, including her mother Mabel and Thomas Monnington; her sister Eileen and nephew Martin provided the model for the mother and child.  It is likely that the elder St. Martin, wearing a bishop’s cloak, is a portrait of the architect Sir Herbert Baker. 
Bishop Bell, who was involved with commissions for religious works from numerous artists including Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Augustus Lunn and Hans Feibusch, described the St Martin Altarpiece as one of the most lovely, delicate and deeply felt modern religious paintings that I know’ (G.K.A. Bell,The Church and the Artist’, The Studio, September 1942, vol. 124, no. 594, p. 81). 

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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.


SKU: 11278

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Landscape, Piediluco, Italy, 1924


SKU: 9464

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Study of foliage on the banks of a stream for The Flight into Egypt, c.1938


SKU: 7631

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Portrait Study of Colin Gill, c.1921


SKU: 6673

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Sheet of Studies of Snowdrops, circa 1922


SKU: 5866

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Study for The Flight into Egypt, circa 1933-39


SKU: 4940

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

The Front Door of Line Holt Farm House, late 1920’s


SKU: 4417

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Study of Lineholt Farmhouse Facade, c. 1932


SKU: 4375

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Study of Front Door, Lineholt Farmhouse Door, c. 1932


SKU: 3123

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Portrait study, circa 1919


SKU: 3111

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Sheet of Figure Studies, with Self-portrait, circa 1922


SKU: 3109

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Study for St Martin altarpiece, angel from the waist down


SKU: 2829

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Study of a Walnut tree for Scenes from the Life of Saint Martin of Tours, circa 1930


SKU: 2632

Winifred Knights (1899 - 1947)

Italian Landscape, circa 1924