image: portrait of a female factory worker operating a lathe
Miss Loftus had been brought to the attention of the War Artist's Advisory Committee as 'an outstanding factory worker'. Knight expected to do a studio portrait but the Ministry of Supply requested that she be painted at work in the Royal Ordnance Factory in Newport.
Making a Bofors Breech ring was considered the most highly skilled job in the factory, normally requiring eight or nine years training. Loftus was aged 21 at the time of the painting and had no previous factory experience. Her ability to operate the machine presented a considerable publicity coup at the time. However, it has been suggested that she was placed at the machine precisely for this reason.
Industrial machinery was a wholly new element in Knight’s work but her technical accuracy was praised in contemporary reports: Knight, like Loftus, was proving herself in a traditionally male environment.
Loftus was an outstanding factory worker who had mastered complex engineering skills in a very short space of time, and Knight was commissioned to paint her at work in the factory. Knight was fascinated by circus artistes and dancers, and she emphasises the balance and posture of her subject at work. Industrial machinery was a wholly new element in Knight's work but her technical accuracy was praised in contemporary reports: Knight, like Loftus, was proving herself in a traditionally male environment.
War Artists Advisory Committee commission