Ballet dancers take centre stage at Milton Keynes Gallery exhibition

New exhibition celebrates work of pioneering English artist

Friday, 8th October 2021, 12:38 pm
Updated Friday, 8th October 2021, 12:40 pm

Budding young ballerinas took centre stage at MK Gallery to hold first position alongside the famous paintings of ballet dancers by Dame Laura Knight.

Dame Laura is one of the most popular and pioneering English artists of the 20th century and currently the subject of the gallery’s new exhibition Laura Knight, A Panoramic View, which is showing until March 2022.

The young dancers got a ‘behind the scenes' first look at how Dame Laura expressed her love of ballet and performance in her paintings.

The exhibition, Laura Knight, A Panoramic View, opens tomorrow (9/10)and runs until March 2022

Miss Emily, director, Emily Dee Dance School, was delighted to see the paintings depicting dancers and performers for the first time. She said: "What a fantastic opportunity for my dance pupils to see these beautiful paintings.

"They really enjoyed Fay’s short talk about Laura Knight’s work. For some it was their first experience of being in a Gallery and so to see the ballet dancers made it extra special."

Fay Blanchard, head of exhibitions, MK Gallery, said: "Laura Knight’s work has been in the wings too long: this exhibition puts her centre stage with the spotlight shining brightly on her incredible career.

"The young ballerinas provided a refreshing frame to Knight’s paintings of dancers and performance artists in this exhibition. We’re looking forward to giving Laura Knight all the curtain calls she deserves."

After the First World War, Dame Laura visited Enrico’s dance school in London to observe and sketch the ballet dancers. She drew so quickly he would snatch the drawings to show his pupils what they were doing wrong.

During this time, she met some of the most famous Russian ballet dancers of the day such as Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes with Lydia Lopokova and Anna Pavlova. Her regular visits to the ballet enabled her to obtain permission to make studies backstage of dancers as they prepared for their performances.

The exhibition includes a gallery dedicated to this part of Dame Laura's career.

Laura Knight, A Panoramic View is the most significant presentation of Knight’s work in more than 50 years and surveys her career spanning almost a century from her fascination with the backstage of ballet and theatre and exuberant portraits of people’s everyday lives, to the depiction of marginalised communities and racial segregation in America.

The exhibition is the first in a year-long season of exhibitions by female artists at MK Gallery, including the first major survey of British media artist Ingrid Pollard ( March-May 2022) and a retrospective of acclaimed 20th century American street photographer Vivian Maier (June-September 2022).