Knights, Winifred

(1899 – 1947)

Illustration to Algernon Blackwood's The Centaur, 1915

Pen and ink, watercolour

5 3/8 x 2 in. (13.7 x 5.1 cm)


Private collection.

Literature: Sacha Llewellyn, Winifred Knights, Lund Humphries, 2016, page 20

At the start of her art training Knights considered a career as an illustrator.  Presenting herself as the central protagonist, and selecting models from her inner circle, she was greatly drawn to themes showing female independence, strength and courage, such as Rossetti’s Goblin Market. The conflict between female self-empowerment and subjugation was a recurrent theme, explored through women’s relationship to the natural world, to working communities, to marriage, motherhood and death.

In 1915, Winifred Knights produced an illustration to Algernon Blackwood’s visionary novel, The Centaur, published in 1911. It is a very beautiful book’, she observed. The author must be a disciple of Carpenter’s for he quotes him at the head of practically every chapter and the whole book is full of ideas like Carpenter’s’. Set in the Caucasus between the Black and Caspian Seas, The Centaur tells the story of a journalist of mystical temperament who rejects the pace of the modern world for a lifestyle that is closer to nature. Winifred’s illustrations, which were inspired by W. G. Robertson’s end paper design, depict the vision of strange dreamy forms of almost impossible beauty‚Ķhair flying past them like a rain of summer flowers’. The compositions, in pen and ink and watercolour, are stylistically close to Edmund Dulac’s Noctures’
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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