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Wednesday’s Woman … Dame Laura Knight

April 9, 2014

Somehow or other I have overlooked this artist. I came across her quite by accident during our recent ‘collections  project’.  We have been working on the project now for several years to update the collections and make space for new stock. The item I saw was indeed had not been borrowed of late and not ‘meaningfully’ catalogued (not easily located on the catalogue)  I wonder if it does deserve a place in our Special Collection where it will be catalogued fully.  She certainly did make her mark and championed not just women artists but women workers in general.  

Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) was an English artist using all mediums not only in the figurative and realist tradition but she also welcomed the English Impressionism.  I have learned that she was in her long career among the most successful and popular painters in Britain. In 1929 she made a Dame and a little later became the first woman elected to the Royal Academy since its formation in 1768.

In 1965 Laura Knight was the first woman to to have an exhibition at the Royal Academy. Although she was known for painting in the world of theatre and ballet in London she became better known for being a war artist during the Second World War.  She was interested and inspired by marginalised communities; such as Gypsies and circus performers. It was her success, I understand, in the male-dominated British art establishment that paved the  way for greater status and recognition for women artists.

I did find a little series of books in Special Collections; not about Laura Knight in particular but about war artists in general although the images are poor quality; Laura did write the introduction to the volume about Women.

She reminds us that women who were employed in the munition factories and those who were enlisted in the fighting forces were not prepared for the ‘grim’ circumstances.  Saying that ‘ Not so very long ago to ride a bicycle in bloomers was not quite genteel. Women’s pleasure should be dusting the china and playing a few tunes on the piano. While their sisters, often in degrading conditions, slaved in menial tasks. Female mentality was not considered worthy of responsible business duties; and a professional life was almost closed to women.  Opportunities of serious study was rare, from time to time certain forceful characters ignored public opinion, giving their wits a wider field. They and the women of the last war prepared the way for girls now found in every walk of life’.  

She went on to tell some stories,  one I liked of the engineering shop.  Where you see girls with their curls bound in nets to protect them for the machinery.  Many girls sat at benches filing and tooling delicate pieces of steel with exceptional skill. Overhead, a woman masters a huge crane. Nearby a ‘young thing’ bent over a lathe,  sparks fly out as it whirls around.  She concentrates intently as the metal she grinds must be true to two-tenths of one thousandth part of an inch.  This particular operation is the most difficult in the making of anti-aircraft gun and until then could only be done by a man with eight or nine years of experience in the engineering shop.  

She went on the commend women who have mastered abstruse sciences of radio-location and meteorology, who were not just responsible for the safety of the local community but for lives of all the soldiers, sailors and airmen.

I am sorry I missed this woman I look forward to seeing some her paintings in the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy soon  



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Weekly Photo Challenge … Threshold

April 8, 2014

Threshold means point of entry or beginning; of which I have had more than my fair share in my lifetime.  I am not complaining I have a a good, rich life and well rewarded. But it has not all been plain sailing. I have done the usual crossing of thresholds even been carried over a couple times. But as I near retirement age I prefer to keep the threshold crossing in small steps; turning a new page as good as it gets.


Saturday I learned …

April 7, 2014

On Saturday I did step out of my comfort zone; but this is nothing new. I have spent my life in vulnerable situations; not life or death but pretty precarious sometimes.  However, I do know from experience (note to myself to remember this fact) that the anticipation is always worse than the event.

I always over prepare and over read events,  it began as a child a a defense tool.  I had a difficult and exacting mother who didn’t take prisoners or give the benefit of   doubt. Gone was the adage ‘innocent until proven guilty’.  

It doesn’t stop me doing new and exciting things I have had a good and rich life. However, it does stop me enjoying and relaxing at the circus!

Saturday was a tiny case in point.  I was looking forward to this particular class,I had been ‘planning’ to do learn a new skill (how does one do that? It is either new or not)

Long before, I had the materials I needed and even some examples of ‘things I had done earlier ( See what I mean. I was already for the put downs!)

I was even questioning my ability to draw a straight line; artist was no longer in my vocabulary.

I do not regret the preparation; I spent many happy hours playing with new inks, rollers and paper … it was just the ‘opportune’ cloud that come down to  bring doubt and negative thoughts.

Meanwhile water has flowed under the bridge and I stemmed the tide … I did learn to do simple mono-printing.

Silent Sunday

April 6, 2014

2014-04-06 08.49.24


Saturday …

April 5, 2014

Today I begin again! I would like to say I am excited or even happy but I am not! I really want to become a [better] printer and produce some desirable pieces. I can cut a bit of lino, make a fair representation of a few items …. tea pots, bikes and boots …  no great shakes!

I can even make a pretty good print;  my friend at Artichoke Press helped me with that.  

I have the rollers, ink, paper, cutting tools and even a new apron; but somewhere the enthusiasm has gone, I am even fearful.

I am off to another art class this afternoon and it seems the lonely, new girl feeling is overwhelming … does being an artist [human being] always feel like this? Why have I not noticed it so before?

2014-04-05 08.31.51

Friday’s Library Snapshot

April 4, 2014

This week l we celebrated the International Children’s’ Book Day recognised annually on the 2nd of April; the l birthday of Hans Christian Andersen. We have several books in our Children’s Collection by this famous author of folk tales and found this item not so readable for me.The illustrations are a little dull when compared with those of Mabel Lucie Attwell in a volume that stood nearby ( I don’t even know the illustrator) nonetheless they are beautiful in a granite sort of way.

Alphabe Thursday T is for Turquoise and Turpentine

April 3, 2014

T is for Turpentine and turquoise; I am so disappointed that there is no colour that begins with ‘T’ so I am clutching at straws this week.

None of the books I have relating to colour refer to turquoise.   Is there such a pigment ?

Turquoise is an opaque blue-green mineral that is a hydrous phosphate of copper and aluminium according to Wikipedia. I have  no reason to think that it is ground to a paste and used in painting.

So back to the drawing board. I remember my dad as a boat builder using Turps or Turpentine when varnishing the boats when they were completed. I can remember going to the ships chandler’s in the nearby shipyard to buy the turps ‘loose.’ I would take a medicine bottle or two and a few shillings to buy 1/2 a pint of turps, some methylated spirits or some boiled linseed. I remember the smell of the shop and my dad’s workshop with much pleasure.

 Turpentine was also called spirit of turpentine or oil of turpentine it is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin from trees, particularly pines.  It is mainly used as a solvent and it is used by artists as thinner for oil-based paintings. 

I hope next week I will be able to find a colour so I can continue my theme until the end of the alphabet

alphabet thursday


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