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Valuable drawings by Dame Laura Knight stolen after Royal Mail left them on doorstep

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Work by Dame Laura - who died in 1970 - can fetch as much as £100,000 for her oil paintings, with her drawings selling for up to £1,200
Work by Dame Laura - who died in 1970 - can fetch as much as £100,000 for her oil paintings, with her drawings selling for up to £1,200

A valuable set of drawings by one of Britain’s most popular 20th century artists was stolen after being left on a doorstep by Royal Mail.

The five pieces, by Dame Laura Knight, were taken from outside the house of an art dealer in the small Suffolk village of Waldringfield, after he failed to answer the door.

Richard Morris, one of the country’s leading dealers and historian of 20th century British art, has now offered a substantial reward for the return of the drawings of ballerinas and stage performers.

Royal Mail has launched an investigation into the theft of the drawings, which were taken between 9.37am and 3pm on Friday, November 26.

Suffolk Police are also investigating the theft, which is understood to be one of a number of similar cases of parcels being taken from doorsteps in the area.

There are fears that the stolen pieces will be sold on to local dealers and eventually bought by a collector unaware of their provenance.

Two of the stolen drawings
Two of the stolen drawings

Work by Dame Laura - who died in 1970 - can fetch as much as £100,000 for her oil paintings, with her drawings selling for between £500 and £1,200.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Morris said: “Last Friday Royal Mail left a package on my front doorstep containing five drawings by Laura Knight and was later stolen.

“Can I ask you to keep your eyes open and contact me urgently if you are offered or spot any of these drawings.”

He added: “Please keep your eyes peeled, especially on eBay There is a substantial reward for their return.”

A ballerina drawing by Dame Laura Knight that was stolen from an art dealer's doorstep
A ballerina drawing by Dame Laura Knight that was stolen from an art dealer's doorstep

The spate of doorstep thefts has shocked residents of the idyllic riverside village of Waldringfield, where there were just four burglaries reported last year.

The theft of the drawings came after a 5ft model reindeer Lesley York had ordered for Christmas for £50 was taken from his doorstep on being delivered by a courier.

Mr York said: “When I asked about the parcel the company insisted their driver had left it on the doorstep - but it wasn't there and must have been stolen. You don't expect that sort of thing to happen in a little village like this - the worst we have had in recent years is the theft of heating oil and once a car was taken.

'We have never needed a village bobby'

"Waldringfield is almost crime-free - we have never had a village bobby because we have never needed one. This is all very disappointing and upsetting."

The Rev Canon Ian Wilson, who holds services at the community's medieval All Saints Church, said: "It's extremely unusual - Waldringfield is a beautiful village with generations of the same families - it is a place where people look out for each other."

Dame Laura, who had displayed her gifts as an artist from an early age, became the first woman elected to full membership of the Royal Academy in 1936 and is credited with having paved the way for greater status and recognition for women artists.

Her groundbreaking self-portrait showing herself painting a nude model, the artist Ella Naper, challenged the rule that female artists could not paint nude models directly, but had to work from casts and existing drawings.

Dame Laura's groundbreaking self-portrait showing herself painting a nude model
Dame Laura's groundbreaking self-portrait showing herself painting a nude model

During the Second World War, Dame Laura became an official war artist, producing among her work a famous portait of 21-year-old Ruby Loftus, a munitions worker, to help boost female recruitment to Britain’s armaments factories.

A spokesman for Suffolk Police said: “We can confirm that during daylight hours, person/s unknown stole a parcel of five drawings left on the front doorstep of a residential property in Waldringfield near Woodbridge. It took place at some point between Friday 26 November at 9.37am and 3pm the same day.”

Royal Mail apologised, saying its postman had left the drawings on the doorstep in contravention of its procedures and it was now processing a claim for compensation.

A spokeswoman said: “Every single item of mail is important to us. We have apologised to the customer personally and reminded the postman about the importance of following correct procedures when customers are not at home."

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