Private Held

Knights, Winifred

(1899 – 1947)

Edge of Abruzzi; Boat with three people on a lake, 1924-30

Signed on the reserved with initials and dated 1930
Oil on canvas
26 3/16 x 26 3/16 in. (66.5 x 66.5 cm)


Sold by French Gallery to Stephen and Virginia Courtauld (1931). Given by Stephen and Virginia Coutauld to their niece and thence by descent; Bonhams Bath, 2007 lot 460 16.07.2007; Private collection

Exhibition: ‘True to Life, British Realist Painting in the 1920s & 1930s’, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1 July – 29 October 2017. Cat. 54. ’50/50; Fifty British Women Artists 1900 ‚Äì 1950′, Worshipful Company of Mercers (3rd December 2018 – 23rd March, 2019); The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds (9th April, 2019 – 27th July, 2019).’For Real: British Realists from the 20s and 30s’, Museum MORE, Gorssel (September 15th, 2019 ‚Äì January 5th, 2020).

Literature; Patrick Elliot & Sacha Llewellyn; True to Life, British Realist Painting in the 1920s & 1930s, July 2017, ISBN 978 1 911054 05 4, Fig.20 and Cat. 54, page 22, 23 and page 99.

I had seen reproductions of Edge of Abruzzi; Boat with three people on

a lake many times and had even visited Piediluco, the small town near

Rome from where my mother drew her inspiration for this picture. But

I only got to see the original artwork in 2016 when it formed part of the

Winifred Knights exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.

I returned to view it on several occasions, its immense beauty

having a very powerful effect on me. Even when surrounded by many,

many visitors I always fell under its quiet spell as it revealed yet another

intricate detail. I feel sad and joyful at the same time that I have, at last,

seen the painting in the flesh’ ‚Äì sad that I will probably never get to view

it again, but happy that I have had the opportunity to study and enjoy

this most wonderful work at close hand.

When I was a schoolboy, I was slightly aware of there being

something exceptional about my mother, but I was totally ignorant of

her true abilities. Now, at the end of my life, I am delighted to have

learnt of her tremendous talent and been able to appreciate so much of

her work, from childhood sketches through to her major pictures. She

had just begun to paint again – after a twelve year hiatus – when she died

so tragically young at the age of forty-seven.

Commentary by John Monnington (b.1934), a retired precision engineer. He is the son of Winifred Knights and Sir Walter Thomas Monnington (PRA), and acts as archivist of their works.

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Knights, Winifred

1899 – 1947

Winifred Knights was born in Streatham, London in 1899. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art (1915’17, 1918’20 and 1926’27) . In 1919 she jointly won the Slade Summer Composition Competition with A Scene in a Village Street with Mill-Hands Conversing. In 1920, she became the first woman to win the Scholarship in Decorative Painting awarded by the British School at Rome. She remained in Italy until December 1925, marrying fellow Rome Scholar Thomas Monnington (1902’1976) in April 1924. On her return to England, Knights received a commission to paint an altarpiece for the Milner Memorial Chapel in Canterbury. A major commission for the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, on which she had been working for five years, remained unconcluded at her early death, aged 47.
Throughout her life, Winifred Knights produced work through which she explored women’s autonomy. Presenting herself as the central protagonist, and selecting models from her inner circle, she rewrote and reinterpreted fairy tale and legend, biblical narrative and pagan mythology. She was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2016.


Winifred Knights
Compositional study for The Flight into Egypt, circa 1938
Winifred Knights
Study for the Marriage at Cana with a self portrait, circa 1923
Winifred Knights
Portrait of Colin Gill, c.1921
Winifred Knights
Portrait Study of Colin Gill, c.1921
Winifred Knights
Study of a Seated Woman for The Santissima Trinita
Winifred Knights
Study of Lineholt Farmhouse Facade, c. 1932
Winifred Knights
Study for St Martin altarpiece, angel from the waist down
Winifred Knights
Study for Scenes from the Life of St Martin of Tours, circa 1929
Winifred Knights
Landscape study for Santissima Trinita, circa 1924