Catalog Essay | April 30, 2020 | Lot 81
Daniel Ridgway Knight (1839-1924) was a prominent American expatriate artist working in 19th century France. He was born in Pennsylvania and attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts along with Mary Cassatt and Thomas Eakins. In 1861, Knight went to Paris for two years to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He apprenticed under Charles-Gabriel Gleyere (1806-1874) and worked briefly under Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891).
In 1863 Knight returned to Philadelphia to serve in the Union Army. He founded the Pennsylvania Sketch Club where he exhibited portraits and battle scenes sketched during the war. He married in 1871, and in 1872 Knight and his new wife moved to France and settled in Poissy, a village just north of Paris.
Knight’s work exhibits the influences of his French Impressionist friends Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley, also pupils in Gleyere’s atelier. The influences of other contemporaries including Jean-Francois Millet, Jules Bastien-Lepage and Jules Breton can also be identified. In contrast to these proponents of realism, Knight’s work depicts the “peasant-picturesque.” Young, pretty maidens stroll through scenic landscapes and bountiful gardens, there is nothing to indicate the economic hardships of the peasant class. Knight often used local peasant women as models, dressing them up costume and placing them in idyllic settings. In Summer Afternoon, Seine Valley the maiden stands in a picking garden in full summer bloom. Knight showcases his skills as a flower painter. Here in a field of poppies, lupine, sunflowers and dahlias the young maiden selects the best bloom to pick. The artist successfully captures the tender way in which the maiden holds the flower and her gaze as she admires it.
Universally appealing, Knight’s works are widely collected by museums and individuals alike. During his lifetime Knight earned a multitude of ribbons and prizes, exhibiting in both Europe and America. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Milwaukee Museum and the Brooklyn Museum were among the first public institutions to collect his work.