Dame Laura Knight was born in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, the youngest of three daughters to Charles and Charlotte Johnson. Knight was a painter in the figurative, realist tradition who embraced English Impressionism. During her long career, Knight was among the most successful and popular painters in Britain. In 1929 she was created a Dame and in 1936 became the first woman elected to the Royal Academy since its foundation in 1768.
Her large retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy, in 1965, was another first for a woman. Although Knight was known for painting amidst the world of the theatre and ballet in London, and for being a war artist during the Second World War, she was also greatly interested in, and inspired by, more marginalised communities and individuals including Gypsies and circus performers. Her success in the male-dominated British art establishment paved the way for greater status and recognition for women artists.