Dame Laura was the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy. She was born Laura Johnson in Nottingham, England. Her father died when she was a small child and the family became improverished. At age 13, she won a place at the Nottingham School of Art. After graduation, she set up her own studio in Staithes, North Yorkshire. In 1903, she married fellow artist Harold Knight and exhibited at the Royal Academy. The couple moved to the fishing port of Newlyn, Cornwall, where they became leading members of the Newlyn School. In 1919, they went to London, where she painted backstage at performances of the Ballets Russes. She also traveled with the Mills and Carmos Circus. She became one of the leading British painters of her generation and a leading female artist of the 20th century. Her success in the male-dominated art world helped to pave the way for other women artists. In 1929, she was awarded a DBE, the first woman ever to receive this honor. She received a commission to draw and paint the War Trials at Nuremberg following World War II. Until old age, she continued to sketch and paint behind the scenes at the theater, including the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford and the Old Vic in London. Her first autobiography, Oil Paint and Grease Paint, was published in 1936. The Magic of a Line appeared in 1965 and coincided with a major retrospective of her work at the Royal Academy.