Daniel Ridgway Knight (American, 1839-1924) Girl in harvest field 46 x 35 1/2in (116.8 x 90.2cm)

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Lot 23W
Daniel Ridgway Knight
(American, 1839-1924)
Girl in harvest field 46 x 35 1/2in (116.8 x 90.2cm)

US$ 70,000 - 100,000
£ 55,000 - 78,000
Daniel Ridgway Knight (American, 1839-1924)
Girl in harvest field
signed, inscribed and dated 'Ridgway Knight / Paris 1887' (lower right)
oil on canvas
46 x 35 1/2in (116.8 x 90.2cm)

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Boussod Valadon & Co., Paris, titled "Girl in Harvest Field";
    M. Knoedler & Co., New York (#5907), 30 September 1887, ff5000, titled "Girl in Harvest Field";
    A.T. Goshron, Cinncinati, Ohio, 20 December 1888, $1,400;
    M. Knoedler & Co., New York (#6253), 1 February 1889, returned for credit, titled "Across the Fields";
    R. L. Cutler, Brooklyn, New York, 7 February 1889, $1,350;
    Private collection, Santa Barbara;
    Sale, Butterfield & Butterfield, San Francisco, 11 June 1987, lot 2614;
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Born to a Quaker family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1839, Ridgway Knight did not allow his conservative upbringing to hinder his artistic nature. At nineteen, Knight enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts, where Mary Cassat and Thomas Eakins were his colleagues, but after three years he sailed to Paris to continue his studies in the studios of Charles Gleyre and Alexandre Cabanel. There he met and befriended Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley with whom he maintained a life-long relationship.

    In 1863, Knight made the decision to return to America and fight in the looming Civil War. As a Philadelphia native, Knight felt a strong obligation to enlist in the war efforts and protect his native city. While serving with the Union Army through 1865, Knight continued to sketch and draw his surroundings, creating a personal testimony of his wartime experience. Following the war, Knight remained in the United States until 1871 when he married Rebecca Webster, one of his students. They returned to France that same year and Knight entered the studio of Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, whose connections would grant the artist entry to the Paris Salon.

    By 1873, Knight was living with his family in Poissy, west of Paris, where he lived alongside the local peasants and farm hands, which he from then on exclusively painted. Whether these figures were performing their daily duties or taking a wistful moment between tasks, Knight captured the essence of these figures with such grace that he was often accused of romanticizing their position in life. When questioned in 1888 about the sentimentality and romantic notions Knight had for the peasants he depicted, he is famously remembered as stating: "These peasants are as happy and content as any similar class in the world. They all save money and are small capitalists and investors. They enjoy life. They work hard, to be sure, but plenty of people do that. They love their native soil. In their hours of ease they have countless diversions; and the women know how to be merry in their hours of toil." (P. Beecher, A Pastoral Legacy: Daniel Ridgway Knight & Louis Aston Knight, n.p.)

    The present painting bears a striking resemblance to Jules Breton's many gleaners, solitary figures at the edge of a field, heading home at the end of the work day. The Realist painter from Artois, along with Jean Francois Millet, had paved the way decades before for the acceptance of the peasantry into the artistic repertoire of the 19th century, which Ridgway Knight gladly adopted. The young girl is graciously silhouetted against the golden wheat stalks, her rosy cheeks contrasting the dark colors of her dress and general earthy colors of the composition. Her elegance and beauty denote an idealistic vision of rural life that Knight had maintained until the end of his life.

    We are grateful to Howard L. Rehs for confirming the authenticity of the work based on first-hand inspection and for providing additional cataloguing information. The work will be included in the catalogue raisonné of the artist's oeuvre as number SF1310. A photo certificate will accompany this lot.
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