A study of Winifred Knights, 1915-1933

Eckersley, Rosanna (2015) A study of Winifred Knights, 1915-1933. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Winifred Knights, 1899-1947, was a student at the Slade School of Art from 1915, where she developed a decorative manner of rhythmic, repetitive forms, one form of cautious modernism. In 1920 she was the first woman to win the Rome Prize in Decorative Painting. The award was for three years at the British School at Rome. Knights often chose to base her paintings on biblical subjects, or the lives of saints. She was not religious and I argue that these stories, which were well-known in Britain at the time, were vehicles to represent the lives of women and families in the unsettled years during and after WWI. Many women artists have depicted domestic scenes, but Knights chose the exterior and multi-figure compositions, including many self-portraits. She used these compositions to explore women‟s vulnerability, rebellion against male control, maternity and the self-sufficiency of a women‟s community. Personal material is present in all her work and much of it deals with the traumas she suffered. My thesis argues that her paintings‟ engagement with the viewer is not restricted by this material: the themes she explored resonated with contemporaneous viewers, as they do today. The argument closely examines Winifred Knights‟ paintings, including their art historical sources. It draws on her correspondence and on the social conditions of Britain and Italy. The small number of her oil paintings is no measure of Knights‟ success as artist and woman. Indeed, the many dimensions of life as artist, woman, mother and wife were important to Knights. While previous studies of women artists have regarded biography as artistic source material or distraction, I argue that it is central to understanding Knights and her contexts. This thesis therefore argues that the many aspects of a complete life fed into Knights‟ painting and can be seen in her sensitive depictions of women‟s lives.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art History and World Art Studies (former - to 2014)
Depositing User: Jackie Webb
Date Deposited: 04 May 2016 11:33
Last Modified: 04 May 2016 11:33
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/58565


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