Happy birthday Daniel Ridgway Knight!

Daniel Ridgway Knight was born to a strict Quaker family in Philadelphia on this day in 1839. He studied and exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he was a classmate of Mary Cassatt and Thomas Eakins. In 1861, he traveled to Paris, continuing his education in the studio of Charles Gleyre and at the École des Beaux-Arts. After serving the Union Army in the American Civil War, Knight returned to France, where he would spend the rest of his life.   

During his time in France, Knight came to know most of the latest trends in contemporary art. He met the future Impressionists in Gleyre’s studio, encountered Jean-François Millet, the great painter of the French peasantry, at Barbizon, and he became a close friend of the popular painter Ernest Meissonier. Knight would absorb influences from all of these sources. His images of peasant women at rest, like Peasant in a Field (on view in the Residence Library), are thematically aligned with Millet, but he found Millet’s moralizing depictions to be too fatalistic. Like Meissonier, he committed to subjects that were attractive to the public, and his idyllic scenes of peasants absorbed in contemplation found a ready audience.   

Knight’s friendships with the Impressionist painters Alfred Sisley and Pierre-Auguste Renoir also instilled a love of working en plein-air. He meticulously recorded the landscape along the river Seine. Peasant in a Field demonstrates his realistic portrayal of nature while retaining an atmosphere of tranquility.   

DANIEL RIDGWAY KNIGHT, American, 1839–1924; Peasant in a Field, ca. 1890; Oil on canvas; on loan from the collection of Susan Adler Thorp, 1.1990

-Laura Gray McCann, Curatorial Research Assistant

Posted by Chantal Drake at 11:03 AM
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