This month we have had the privilege of receiving an article from our regular volunteer Paul, compiling the experiences of the artist Dame Laura Knight.
My name is LAURA JOHNSON, and in this year of 1903, I will marry my fellow artist, Harold Knight.
In the meantime, I love being here on Uncle Arthur’s allotment on the Hunger-hills. I first visited his garden when I was a small child with my mother Charlotte, an art teacher. I particularly remember July 1885 when I was seven years of age, and I came up here with my Grandmamma Johnson and sisters Nellie and Sissy to take our tea. My mother was quite poorly at the time and couldn’t come. The garden looked very nice with the flowers coming out, especially the roses. The men had been to finish painting the summer house, so everything looked lovely.
Uncle Arthur lived with us and was the only man in a house of girls. He was something of a dandy and man-about-town with a sociable nature and many friends, usually Freemasons like himself. I particularly remember him asleep on the old horsehair sofa, his face covered by a newspaper against the flies. I also recall him bringing home washing baskets full of roses from his allotment at Hunger-hills (a pound a year rental), enough roses to fill three cut-glass bowls followed by the harvest of plums, as big as peaches!
Harold and I are artists having met at the Nottingham Art School, where I enrolled in 1891 when I was 13. As a child I always asked if I could paint like my mother, and eventually I had my wish. One day at Uncle Arthur’s summer-house on his allotment Mamma painted a frieze round it, depicting a lily-pond with herons standing in the water. I was allowed to squeeze paint from oil tubes on to Mamma’s palette, and to fill in details with one of her brushes. I felt a real artist!
Sadly, Mamma died of cancer in 1893 and so my sisters and I became orphans, living in significant poverty for at least five years. That was perhaps always the lot of a struggling artist but, at the same time, I was always hoping for better things. Perhaps my limited talent, allied to my new married name of Laura Knight, will lessen our struggles.