A highly respected topographical landscape painter, Charles Knight was an important figure in Brighton School of Art over many decades. He attended Brighton School of Art (1919-23) where he was particularly influenced by painter Louis Ginnett and architect John Denman.

Watercolour of downland under grey skies, brown road in foreground

Charles Knight

Having obtained his Diploma in 1923 Knight studied at the Royal Academy (RA) Schools where he was influenced by the Keeper, Charles Sims and visitors such as Walter Sickert and Sir George Clausen. Whilst there he was awarded the Landseer Scholarship and the Turner Gold Medal for his landscape Llangollen (1925), subsequently hung in the RA Annual Exhibition (1926) and purchased for the Tate Gallery. Like many contemporary artists and curators he was influenced by the revival of interest in the early nineteenth century water-colourist, John Sell Cotman. He began his long association as a teacher with Brighton School of Art in 1926.

Knight played a significant role in regional arts, becoming a member of the Brighton Arts Club (1922) and being elected to the Society of Sussex Painters (1929). He was also active nationally, being elected as an Associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours (1933), with full membership in 1935, and Vice-Presidency (1961). He was a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (ROI, 1933) and continued to show regularly at the Royal Academy Annual Exhibition for most of his life. Knight (anonymously) also painted inn signs fabricated by the Birmingham Guild for the Kemp Town Brewery that could be seen throughout Sussex, some being displayed at the Building Centre, London (1936). He had married a former fellow student, Leonara Vasey, in 1934, living in Ditchling village.

Grey wash picture of mountain landscape

Charles Knight

Knight was invited to participate in Recording Britain, conceived by art historian Kenneth Clark as an extension to the War Artists Scheme. A number of leading British artists were commissioned to produce over 1500 watercolours and drawings: Knight was seen by artist Russell Flint as the ‘star turn’ and by Kenneth Clark as the ‘jewel in the crown’. Of the 40 drawings Knight undertook 10 were included in the final publication. During the War he also attracted media attention, having been invited in 1944 to instruct Princess Margaret in art.

After the War Knight remained highly active as an artist, exhibiting regularly until his death. He also remained involved with the Brighton School of Art, as Acting Vice-Principal (1959) and Vice-Principal (1967), before retiring in 1967.