Dame Laura Knight: The Fairgrounds, Penzance

Irina Dame Laura Knight - The Fairground, Penzance by irina
Dame Laura Knight, The Fairgrounds, Penzance, (c.1916), Source: Sotheby’s

Who Was Dame Laura Knight?

Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970) was an English artist who worked in oils, watercolours, etching, engraving and drypoint. Knight was a painter in the figurative, realist tradition who embraced English Impressionism. As a teenager, she initially started painting to help support her financially struggling family in her home town of Nottingham, England.

The Fairground

Dating back to the fourteenth century, a fair was regularly held in Penzance in Cornwall, England. Common sights included merry-go-rounds, acrobats, clowns, peddlars, beer-sellers, and men performing card tricks.

Dame Laura Knight, The Fairgrounds, Penzance, (c.1916), Source: Sotheby’s (detail)

According to Sotheby’s

Travelling fairgrounds, carnivals, circuses and side shows, often operated by gypsies, were, of course, a common feature of English towns and villages at the turn of the twentieth century. Many, such as that at Penzance, had venerable histories.


Dame Laura Knight, The Fairgrounds, Penzance, (c.1916), Source:  Sotheby’s,  detail

“The Cornish Scarlet”

Around 1913, Laura Knight purchased a long red hand-knitted “cardigan” at a fair in Penzance. This celebrated garment, known as “The Cornish Scarlet”, was worn by the artist and habitually handed out to models when a vivid color note was required for a composition. It features so prominently in the center of two versions of The Fairground, Penzance that it has been claimed that the figure wearing it is the artist – albeit a younger self.1         from Sotheby’s

Click for Enlarged Detail:

(best viewed At Sunnyside – Where Truth and Beauty Meet)


In Summary

In her long career, Knight was among the most successful and popular painters in Britain. Her success in the male-dominated British art establishment paved the way for greater status and recognition for women artists.

According to Tate.org

“Influenced by Impressionism and the Newlyn School in Cornwall, Knight’s subject-matter is contemporary without being avant-garde. Dismissed by Modernists for her lack of interest in formal experiment, Knight’s insistent realism made her one of the most popular artists of the time.”

Thanks for reading! 🙂

The End


Image Source


  • Dame Laura Knight R.A 1877-1970
signed Laura Knight (lower right)
oil on canvas
55 by 74 3/4 in.
139.7 by 189.9 cm


2 Comments Add yours

  1. penwithlit says:

    Reblogged this on penwithlit and commented:
    Marvellous Laura Knight who drew so well from an early age.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marvelous indeed – thanks for visiting! 🙂


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