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On this date we celebrate the birth of Gwendolyn Knight in 1913. She was a Black 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 never remembered when she first decided to become an artist but recalled 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 Works Progress Administration 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 found inspiration in African sculpture, the impressionists, dance, and theater. Studying line and movement, she preferred working with models. Because she still traveled a great deal, her subjects were often people she met while away from home.
Although oil was her favorite medium, she moved into printmaking because it proved to be less time-consuming. Her style was light and airy with a minimum of lines allowing empty space to define a piece. Often the posters of her subjects revealed a genuine knowledge of modern dance. She 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 graced 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, 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