Piece of the Week: Gypsy Splendor


Artist: Dame Laura Knight
Date: 1939  (Impressionism)
Title: Gypsy Splendor
Media: Oil on Canvas 

The way a female artist portrays another woman is considerably different to a male’s, I find. Here the sitter, Lilo Smith (a close friend of Knight’s and her favourite sitter is pictured as she is in her home in Iver: the sheet implying she is comfortable and serene yet on display through her ostentatious ostrich plume hat.

Dame Laura Knight was the second ever woman to become a full member of the royal Academy. She was a portrait painter for all demographics; circus folk, performers, black people and those of the upper/middle classes. She insisted on taking her work in her own direction and her work as a result of this experienced a multitude of styles. 

The use of colour works particularly well in this piece: the stripes on the waggon door begin to frame in on the dark-green scarf and Lilo’s face. Her portrayal in pastel colours is juxtaposed well with the brightness, maintaining a balance between her contemplative personality and vivid lifestyle. 

 For more: Go to the Laura Knight exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (ends 13th October) 


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