Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Exhibition Review • LAURA KNIGHT AT THE THEATRE • The Lowry Galleries • 2008

Behind the scenes/In the Coulisses c 1920 oil Picture credit: Laura Knight Copyright: © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Behind the scenes/In the Coulisses c 1920 oil
Picture credit: Laura Knight
Copyright: © Reproduced with permission of The Estate of Dame Laura Knight DBE RA 2008. All Rights Reserved.

Although these two exhibitions must be appreciated independently (and indeed I think, frankly, there would seem to be no advantage in being considered together), there is a little fun to be had in comparing and contrasting these two 20th century painters from such different backgrounds.

L S Lowry (born in 1887) was in full time employment in Manchester until the age of 65, having attended the Municipal College of Art in that city as a youngster (although he claimed to be self-taught). Since he had little opportunity for travel it is lucky he believed strongly that as an artist one should ‘paint the place you know’. Since Lowry is commonly perceived as depicting the urban working class and its environment, the main shock on seeing these paintings in such close proximity to Knight’s work is how subdued a palette he uses compared to hers!

Laura Knight was born in 1877 and trained at Nottingham Art School from the age of 13. She too started by painting what she knew; in her case the North Yorkshire coast. However, an early visit to the Nottingham Goose Fair seems to have awakened in her a lifelong love of carnival and theatre, and a lot of the work is incredibly colourful.

The Lowry shows over 130 works spanning 50 years of her career, from circa 1911 to 1962. A large part of this exhibition is given over to work done from 1919 and throughout the 20s, as well as drawings and paintings of the British tours of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Knight was apparently given the freedom to sketch dancers backstage, and made the most of her friendship with the ballerinas of the time, Lydia Lopokova and Anna Pavlova, to produce some vibrant work.

Her paintings from this period are very evocative for me. Although well before my time, the dancers pictured here were the ones I learned about in my childhood, revered in the ballet books I was reading whilst taking lessons as a small child in the sixties with Leo Kersley, who was, I am reliably informed, Stanislaus Idzikovsky’s favourite London pupil once upon a time when Knight was busy painting!

The brightness of a lot of these paintings counterpoints for me the sadness of the dancer. The unflinching dedication to a relentless regime becomes a painful battle as time takes its toll. The dancer’s dedication passes into ashes and yet leaves behind so much as well, thanks in some part to these paintings.

Ballet dancers work both with and against ‘nature’ to make the beauty of line and form which inevitably dies. The pain of that falling away seems instilled in a lot of the work here, beneath the bright lights and meretricious costumes.

I am lucky enough to still have my darling ballet teacher as a friend, and I mentioned this exhibition to him. Leo Kersley said he had not seen it but knew Knight and her work. He was never fond of it, since she was painting at a time when so many other artists were doing paintings of dancers that seemed to have movement, and Knight’s work seemed wooden in comparison. Particularly striking from that period for Kersley was the work of Carlo Carra, an artist who investigated the ideas of representing motion, as many did, and subsequently became a cubist. Enrico Cecchetti, who taught Idzikovski, who in turn taught Leo Kersley, is quoted here as seizing upon Knight’s sketches to show pupils evidence of their errors, a compliment to the artist whose speed he praised as ‘comme la photographie!’ (However, this quote in the catalogue is Knight herself recounting!)

A watercolour in the exhibition – ‘The Dancing Class’ – may have been the one exhibited in 1935, but was obviously taken from these sketches made earlier. Cecchetti set up a school in London and Knight has Conté crayon on paper and a lithograph of his classes from 1920 and 1924, respectively. He returned to La Scala Milan in 1924 and subsequently died there, teaching class, in 1928.

This is, I realise, an extremely personal reaction to and discussion of Knight’s work. I feel sure the exhibition will move all those who have been involved in ballet in the 20th century, and I hope, stimulate those who haven’t a direct interest, at the very least to compare and contrast with other painters of her era, in the painting of dancers.

Joanna Bacon © 2008

Originally published on R&V 23-06-08

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Movies From The Silent Era

A repository for movies from the silent era

Art Universal

Art as a Sensory

Henry Brooke

Musings, Memories and Miscellanea

Matthew Toffolo's Summary

Daily summary of the life/movie world.

When Angels Fly

Author site of S. Jackson & A. Raymond

off the leash

History, technology, books and baseball.

FLOW ART STATION

THE ENLIGHTENED ART MAGAZINE

Writer Site

Memoir, poetry, & writing theory

hungryfaces

faces gourmet world of fashion, design and art

From guestwriters

Lifestyle magazine and Readers Digest

The Vintage Toy Advertiser

Suffering ink-stained fingers and occasional staple wounds to bring you wonderful images of retro toy ads and pop culture paperworks

Sauce Box

Running my sauce box about my humorous human encounters and probably some other stuff. Enjoy!

scribblesofstageandscreen

Theatre, Film and TV.

Smart History Blog

Compelling Stories of Russian History

Newcastle Photography

Photography Blog by Chris Egon Searle

Brave and Reckless

Reclaiming my inner badass at 50

Gretchen Del Rio's Art Blog

Watercolor paintings

Today in History

"Tell me a fact, and I'll learn. Tell me a truth, and I'll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever." - Steve Sabol, NFL Films

The Architect & I

The Nazis assigned him a number but I wanted the world to know his name.

Basic Archaeology

Archaeology News, Interesting Facts and More

Travalanche

Being a web log for the observations of actor, author, cartoonist, comedian, critic, director, humorist, journalist, master of ceremonies, performance artist, playwright, producer, publicist, public speaker, songwriter, and variety booker Trav S.D.

1stangel.co.uk/loisbryanphotography/

LOIS BRYAN Photography and Digital Art

vixlowthion

A Green future for the Isle of Wight

TOKIDOKI (NOMAD)

a world travel photo blog by Jackie Hadel

swo8

Music means something

literatoluisrodriguez

Literatura y consejos.

Clanmother

A Backward Look Forward

CineMuseFilms

Freelance Film Critic

Christine Parker Art Blog

Sharing my paintings

DukkeHus

The Novel

Susan Brazier Illustrations

Various Illustrations both previous and ongoing.

Wolves in London

Making stuff and pootling in the garden

SophiaRileyKobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Art Bacchant

drunk on the arts

Professional Pin-Cushion in Makeup & Mittens

Loving yourself & Living with Scleroderma!

London Wlogger

Walking blogger exploring London's hidden gems, sights and history!

Winkos: a straw bale building adventure in Poland

A journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle

nz

Online zeitung

The Elegant Mind

"The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it." Diana Vreeland

National Trust Press Office

National Trust news, events and insight

penwithlit

Art, Literature, Poetry, Politics and a little History

%d bloggers like this: