Important American Paintings - September 2010
Daniel Ridgway Knight
A Flowery Path (Louise), 1895
Oil on canvas, 32 × 25 1/2 inches
Signed at lower right: "Ridgway Knight/Paris"
Provenance: M. Knoedler & Co., Paris and New York, October 1895; Newton Club, Newtonville, Mass., March 28, 1896; John Levy Galleries, New York; Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., January 26, 1938, lot 38, as "Louise."
Exhibited: "Central High School: Alumni Exhibition," Woodmere Museum of Art (with Krasdale Art Galleries), Philadelphia, April 14–July 7, 2002, no. 75, color repro. on cover.

RS 5597

The expatriate genre painter Daniel Ridgway Knight was born in Philadelphia to a Quaker family and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1858 to 1861, the year he became a founding member of the Philadelphia Sketch Club. He went to Paris and studied at the École des Beaux-Arts from 1861 to 1863 with Charles Gleyre (1808–1874) and Alexandre Cabanel (1823–1889), and attended the Accademia di San Lucca, then in Venice, in 1863. Knight returned to Philadelphia that year, married, and served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He went back to France in 1871 and lived there for the remainder of his long and successful career. He settled in Seine-et-Oise near Poissy to study with the noted academic painter Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815–1891) in 1873, and the two artists became close friends. Influenced by his French contemporaries Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–1884) and Jules- Adolphe-Aimé-Louis Breton (1827–1906), during the mid-1870s Knight began to paint sentimental representations of peasant women in their rural settings. As an early biographer noted, the artist was "for the most part the painter of a single class of models—demure little peasant girls with their wooden shoes and picturesque costumes." His idealized treatment of such subjects was a far cry from the progressive realist works of Jean-François Millet (1814–1875) that stressed the hardships of life among French peasants. Knight’s best known painting, Hailing the Ferry (1888, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts), was an immense success that assured his reputation in both the United States and Europe. Knight exhibited most often at the Paris Salon from 1873 until 1921. In the United States he exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy twelve times between 1858 and 1910, at the National Academy of Design in New York from 1870 to 1878, and intermittently at the Brooklyn Art Association. He opened a studio outside Paris in Rolleboise-par-Bonniers in 1896, and selected subjects from the surrounding countryside and local people. Knight won many professional distinctions throughout his long career, most notable among them being made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1889 and a knight of St. Michael of Bavaria in 1892. Knight worked as a pictorial propagandist for the French government during World War I. He died in Rolleboise-par-Bonniers. Painted at the height of Knight’s career in 1895, A Flowery Path is an outstanding example of his favorite subject, an attractive young peasant girl standing with a pensive manner in a verdant flower garden. The fine draftsmanship and polished technique reflect the artist’s academic training. This painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Knight’s oeuvre that is being prepared by Rehs Galleries, Inc., in New York.


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