Daniel Ridgeway Knight


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Painter. A resident of France during most of his career, he is known especially for images of peasant life. Calm and charmingly picturesque, his rural actors generally neither labor nor suffer, although they may perform undemanding chores. Typically they populate ample, poetic landscapes bathed in soft, unifying light. Born in Philadelphia, Knight studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1858 until 1861, when he departed for Paris. There he studied with Charles Gleyre and Alexandre Cabanel. In 1863 he returned to Philadelphia and enlisted to fight in the Civil War, which provided subjects for later paintings. He worked in Philadelphia until late 1871 or 1872, when he left permanently for France. He soon purchased a spacious sixteenth-century chateau in Poissy, on the Seine west of Paris. This remained his permanent primary residence, although he also maintained a Paris pied-a-terre and in 1896, to use as a painting retreat, bought an ancient dwelling in the isolated village of Rolleboise, farther down the Seine. He died in Paris. Hailing the Ferry (Pennsylvania Academy, 1888) depicts attractive female rustics beckoning an unseen ferry from river's edge in a silvery landscape. Clearly drawn and modeled, the two figures and their carefully detailed costumes are brought to a high finish, reflecting Knight's academic training. Their atmospheric, pastoral environment, less emphatically detailed, sustains the spirit of Barbizon quietism. Some of his late work, often combining appealing young women with flower gardens, reflects a debt to impressionism in looser handling of paint and brighter colors. Impressionism also informed the feathery, prettified landscapes and garden scenes of his son, painter Louis Aston Knight (1873–1948). Born in Paris and trained there, he remained in France most of his life. For many years he lived in a Normandy country house at Beaumont-le-Roger. He also visited the United States, on occasion for lengthy periods. In 1940 he moved to New York. A stroke curtailed his career a few years before he died there.

Subjects: Art.

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