Oil on canvas
24 1/4 x 20 1/4 inches
Dublin, Royal Hibernian Academy, 1905, as 'Portrait', no.131
Possibly one of the 'two portrait sketches' in Nottingham Artists' Society show, 1905 (Nottingham Journal, 6 May 1905, p 5)
Pictured hanging in the drawing room of Oliver and Rosalina Sheppard at 30 Pembroke Road, Dublin (c.1905-08) in Oliver Sheppard, 1865-1941: Symbolist Sculptor of the Irish Cultural Revival, John Turpin, Four Courts, 2000, p.
Harold and Laura Knight were the golden couple amongst the artists’s community in Newlyn at the beginning of the twentieth century. They had met as students at the Nottingham School of Art in about 1890, when he was 17 and she was 15. Towards the end of her life, Laura remembered their reunion in 1896 after his return from Paris, and his painting of her: ‘Only a few moments passed, however, before the bond between us that had been in existence since we first met made itself known - perhaps showing greater strength than ever before. In imagination I lived through his experience; hand in hand we walked through the galleries; eye to eye saw the great masterpieces; I learnt of aesthetic and technical developments hitherto undreamt of. With my hair done in a new French style that Harold fancied, I posed for a portrait of head and shoulders ... I often wonder if that fine and rather mysterious work still exists’. This memoir, written at least fifty years later, suggests a date of 1896/7 for this haunting early portrait, but the picture was first exhibited in 1905 (in Dublin), suggesting a later date. The colour and lighting derive from the Hague School, particularly the Dutch painter Jozef Israëls, who held dominant influence over the Staithes community of artists amongst whom the Knights lived from 1898 to 1907. However, the Knights probably did not encounter much of Israëls’s work at first hand until they honeymooned at Laren, a village by the Zuiderzee in Holland, where there was an art colony founded by him and Anton Mauve. The canvas is on a continental stretcher.