Gwendolyn Knight was born in Bridgetown, Barbados. She spent most of her youth in Harlem engulfed in the Harlem Renaissance. She briefly attended Howard University in Washington, DC, where she studied with painter Loïs Mailou Jones and printmaker James Lesesne Wells yet, she left the university because of financial crisis during the Great Depression.
When Knight arrived back in Harlem, she studied painting and sculpture with Augusta Savage. Throughout the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Knight became an itinerant artist of sorts, accompanying her husband, Jacob Lawrence, as he pursued new opportunities. Her experimentation with improvisation and movement is best captured in her “quick, lyrical sketches rendered as etchings and monoprints” that she created at the end of her career. Knight’s first retrospective was exhibited when she was 90 years old (“Never Late for Heaven: The Art of Gwen Knight,” at the Tacoma Art Museum, 2003).