William Henry Knight

(26 September 1823 - 31 July 1863)

English portrait and genre painter, born in Newbury, Berkshire where his father, John Knight, was a schoolmaster. He was to become a solicitor, but gave up his law studies after two of his paintings were accepted by the annual exhibition of the Society of British Artists. He moved to London in 1855, taking lodgings in Kennington Road, Lambeth, and supporting himself by drawing crayon portraits while studying in the British Museum and in the schools of the Royal Academy.

Following in the footsteps of William Mulready, he became a genre painter, his street scenes and interior scenes often showing children at play. His first contribution to the Royal Academy exhibition was "Boys Playing Draughts in 1846; from that year until 1862, he was a constant exhibitor there. He also showed many pictures at the British Institution.

Many engravings were made from his works. In his 1855, Academy notes, John Ruskin wrote about "The Broken Window": "This picture does not catch the eye at a distance, but, on looking close, there will be found exquisite and careful painting in it." Knight died in 1863, leaving a widow and six children.

Dictionary of national biography (1885)



Among his best works were:
A Christmas Party(1850) - (preparing for blind man's buff)
Time for Play (1853) Boys Snowballing (1853)
The Village School (1857) Knuckle Down (1858)
The Lost Change (1859) Hide and Seek (1860)
The Game of Marbles (1861) An Unexpected Trump (1861)
Rivals to Blondin (1862) The Counterfeit (1862)
The Village Team (1856) In Training for the Derby (1858)
On The Thames (1859) The Young Artist (1861)
Grandfather's Portrait (1860) The Little Messenger (1858)
The Broken Window (1855) - (Engraved for the August 1865, edition of The Art Journal)


KNIGHT, William Henry, a subject painter, was born at Newbury, in Berkshire, in 1823. He was designed for the law, but practised painting as an amateur, and as two of his pictures were accepted by the Society of British Artists, he resolved to become a portrait painter, and in 1845, came to London to practise as such, studying meanwhile at the British Museum, and afterwards at the Royal Academy.

Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, 1876




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