Daniel Ridgway Knight 1839-1924
Born in Philadelphia to Quaker parents, Daniel Ridgway Knight overcame the culturally restrictive Quaker life, studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in his native city before traveling to Parts in 1861. There he worked under Charles Gleyre along with other artists such as Pierre Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley.
He returned to Philadelphia in 1863 to serve in the Civil War, remaining there for the following eight years. During this time Knight supported himself by painting portraits and genre pictures. In 1871, his Philadelphia patrons sent him back to France, where he succeeded so well at painting in the European style that he remained abroad for the rest of his life. In 1872, Knight began studying under the realist painter Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier. Although unaccustomed to teaching, Meissonier made an exception with Knight whom he influenced greatly. In 1875, Meissonier assisted Knight in obtaining entry to the prestigious Paris Salon, helping to ensure a favorable judgment of Knight's entries in the Salon's annual juried exhibitions.
Knight subsequently moved out of Paris to Poissy, a charming village on the Seine an hour away, where he continued working under Meissonier. At Poissy he executed the peasant subjects for which he became so well known. He was working toward a more natural lighting, a style that dominated painting at the time. Knight even built a glass house in his garden, permitting him to work in natural lighting the entire year. Knight became friendly with his neighbors in Poissy, and although his paintings of them are picturesque, he avoided an overly sentimental approach. His people carry on their daily tasks, and one can develop an understanding of their character from his sensitive renditions. The lush foliage in Knight's paintings conveys the beauty of the fertile French countryside.
Knight's technique was to intensify certain colors in the foreground of his composition, contrasting them against gray skies and subdued backgrounds, which conveyed a heightened sense of reality. The transition from one form to another was accomplished through the exact use of color rather than through an emphasis on shadow and light. Knight's skillful use of lighting gradations frequently conveyed definite moods. The artist continued to explore the nuances of this style until his death in 1924.
Daniel Ridgway Knight's paintings enjoy widespread popularity. They can be found in many museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts; and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia.
Third Gold Medal, Paris Salon 1888
Gold Medal, Munich Exposition 1888
Silver Medal, Paris Exposition 1888
Gold Medal, Columbian Exposition 1893
Gold Medal, Antwerp Exposition 1894
Grand Medal, Pennsylvania Academy 1896
Knighted into the Legion of Honor, 1889
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