Harold Knight

'When the cat's away'

Oil on canvas: 30.2(h) x 24.3(w) in /

76.8(h) x 61.6(w) cm

Signed lower left: H. Knight; inscribed with the title, artist’s name and address on the reverse

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BE 297



Nottingham 1874 – 1961 Colwall, Herefordshire


“When the cat’s away”


Signed lower left: H. Knight; inscribed with the title, artist’s name and address on the reverse

Oil on canvas: 30 ¼ x 24 ¼ in / 76.8 x 61.6 cm

Frame size: 38 ¾ 32 ½ x in / 98.4 x 82.6 cm

In its original oak reverse-pattern Newlyn frame


Painted circa 1893



Private collection, a gift from the artist, then by descent



London, Royal Academy, 1896, no. 626

London, Richard Green, British Impressionism, November 2008, no.3, pp.12-13



This painting was given by Harold Knight to a fellow student of the Nottingham School of Art believed to be called Riley. A label attached to the reverse suggests it was painted when the artist was aged nineteen and still living in his home town of Nottingham. It was the first painting Knight exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.


Although Harold and Laura Knight did not move to Newlyn until 1907, While the cat’s away shows that even as a student, Knight was looking at the work of artists such as Alexander Stanhope Forbes and his wife Elizabeth and Frank Bramley who found that painting inside allowed them to observe different light effects; they often retreated inside to paint and some of their finest works were executed indoors. In the present painting, a young girl has laid aside her broom and stopped doing her chores to play in the firelight. The scene is lit by two different sources of light, the subdued light from the curtained window places the figure almost in silhouette while the red glow of an unseen fire flushes the scene with a warm, radiant light. The details of the room are delicately and expertly described, each object is touched by the firelight.



Elizabeth Adela Forbes The Minuet, 1892

Penlee House Gallery and Museum, Penzance 





Nottingham 1874 – 1961 Colwall, Herefordshire


Often best remembered at the husband of Laura Knight, Harold was also an accomplished artist in his own right and showed a particular talent for painting portraits and interiors.


Born in Nottingham, Knight studied at the Nottingham School of Art and went to Paris in 1894, where he continued his training at the Académie Julian under Benjamin constant and Jean-Paul Laurens.   He married Laura Johnson in 1903 and they spend their early married life in Staithes, Yorkshire.   Knight also made several visits to Holland and was considerably influenced both by the Dutch Old Masters and the Nineteenth century Hague School of painters.   They lived in Newlyn, Cornwall from 1907-1918 and then moved to London.


Knight’s first success came in 1905 when his genre scene, A cup of tea, exhibited at the Royal Academy, was bought for the Queensland Art Gallery, Australia.   His Royal Academy exhibit of 1909 entitled The letter marked a change in his choice of subject matter and signified the beginning of a series of painting of women in interiors; it was acquired by the Leeds City Art Gallery for their permanent collection.


A prolific and successful artist, Knight exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1896-1961 and at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.  He was elected a Royal Academician in 1937, and one year later his painting A student was purchased for the nation under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest. The work of Harold Knight is represented in the public collections of the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts and Tate Britain, London; Touchstones, Rochdale; the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle; Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery; Harris Museum & Art Gallery; Newark Town Hall Museum & Art Gallery; Manchester Art Gallery; Leeds Art Gallery; Grundy Art Gallery; Glasgow Museums; Birmingham Museums Trust; Pannett Art Gallery; Bury Art Museum; Penlee House Gallery & Museum; Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; National Museum Wales, Brighton & Hove Museums; Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums.



Modern BritishHarold Knight