Daniel Ridgway Knight
(American, 1839 - 1924)
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 Ecole 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 middle 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-Francois 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, 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, and was 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.