Dulwich Picture Gallery presents the first major retrospective of work by Winifred Knights (1899-1947), an award-winning Slade School artist and the first British woman to win the Prix de Rome. The exhibition will establish Knights as one of the most original women artists of the first half of the 20th century, bringing together her most ambitious works and preparatory studies for the first time since they were created, including the apocalyptic The Deluge, 1920, which attracted critical acclaim as ‘the work of a genius’.
Knights’ admiration for the Italian Quattrocento was the inspiration for a highly distinctive and painstakingly executed body of work. The smooth surface, contemplative mood and harmoniously restricted palette of her paintings consciously recall early Renaissance frescoes, adapted to everyday subjects from her own time. Knights’ works are deeply autobiographical: presenting herself as the central protagonist and selecting models from her inner circle, she consistently re-wrote and re-interpreted female figures of fairy-tale and legend, Biblical narrative and Pagan mythology to create documents of her own lived experience.
Arranged chronologically Winifred Knights will highlight the key periods in the artist’s career, beginning with the work she produced at the Slade School before charting her stylistic developments at the British School at Rome. The exhibition will also explore significant themes that run throughout Knights’ oeuvre including women’s independence, modernity and her experiences of wartime England. Over 70 preparatory studies will provide a true insight into Knights’ working process, displayed alongside her large-scale paintings to reveal an artist of supreme skill with meticulous attention to detail.
• Winifred Knights, by Sacha Llewellyn, Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd, 2016, 208 p., £25