Gwendolyn Knight, sculptorist and more

Gwendolyn Knight
Sun, 1913-04-20

On this date we celebrate the birth of Gwendolyn Knight in 1913. She was an African American sculptor.

From Barbados, West Indies, she came to the United States with her family when she was seven. She lived in St. Louis until she was in her early teens, when she moved again with her family to New York. She cannot remember when she first decided to become an artist but recalls completing her first paintings when she was eight or nine years old. Harlem helped raise her. It was a rich time in that part of New York.

Forced to leave Howard University because of the Depression, Knight was directed to the WPA artists' workshop led by noted sculptor Augusta Savage. In this arena Gwendolyn Knight's creativity flourished. Savage became Knight's teacher and mentor. Knight's main body of work consists of portraits and still-life art. She finds inspiration in African sculpture, the impressionists, dance, and theater. Studying line and movement, she prefers working with models. Because she still travels a great deal, her subjects are often people she meets while away from home.

Although oil is her favorite medium, she has moved into printmaking because it proved to be less time-consuming. Her style is light and airy with a minimum of lines allowing empty space to define a piece. Often the posters of her subjects reveal a genuine knowledge of modern dance. She has received numerous awards and honors including the National Honor Award presented by the Women's Caucus for Art, Cornish Lifetime Achievement Award in Seattle, Centennial Award of Merit from Arizona State University, Pioneer Award from the 12th annual Artist's Salute to Black History Month in Los Angeles, and two honorary doctorate degrees from Seattle University and the University of Minnesota.

Her works grace the art collections of Hampton University, New York City's Museum of Modern Art, the Francine Seders Gallery in Seattle, and the St. Louis Art Museum. Gwendolyn Knight, also the wife of the late artist Jacob Lawrence passed away on February 18, 2005.

The St. James Guide to Black Artist
Edited by Thomas Riggs
Copyright 1997, St. James Press, Detroit, MI
ISBN 1-55862-220-9

To be an Artist

Person / name: 

Knight, Gwendolyn