Winifred Knights (1899-1947)
Knights achieved critical acclaim at the age of 21 when she became the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Rome Scholarship in Decorative Painting. Her winning entry, The Deluge (Tate, 1920), was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1921 to widespread acclaim, and considered by critics to be ‘the work of a genius’. Despite only producing a handful of paintings due to her meticulous methodology, Knights was celebrated during her lifetime as one of the outstanding artists of her generation. After her early death at the age of 47 she languished in near-obscurity for almost seventy years, until her reputation was reestablished in her first-ever retrospective held at Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2016.
Knights trained at the Slade School of Fine Art between 1915 – 1920 where she outshone her contemporaries by winning numerous prizes, including the coveted Summer Competition (1919) and a Slade Scholarship (1919). After five years spent in Rome (1920 – 1925), she returned to England, where her major commissions included a reredos for the St Martin’s Chapel in Canterbury Cathedral and a large Flight into Egypt for Balcarres Castle, which was left unfinished on her death.