American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist Name:       Louis Aston Knight
Artist Dates:       1873 - 1948
Painting Date:    Undated
Oil on Canvas
Signed Lower Right
Corp. Collection
Size Unframed:    18 x 22
Frame Condition:  Antique
Artist Best Price:  $108,000
Offered At:         
Curator's Comment: Like father, like son--but we prefer the son to the father. Louis Aston Knight was the son of the American ex-patriot painter, Daniel Ridgway Knight, who was born in America and began studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  He was a classmate of both Cassatt and Eakins. In 1861, he went to Paris to study under Cabanel, but returned to Philadelphia in 1863 to serve in the Union Army.  In 1871 Ridgway Knight married Rebecca Morris Webster and returned to France a year later--where the couple remained--the following year saw the birth of Louis Aston Knight. Ridgway Knight made a successful career out of peddling what American tourists of his day wanted to take home. His work is formulaic--an overdressed but attractive peasant maid or two always on a path along a stream and toting a jug, fagots, a basket of flowers--you name it. Unlike his father, Aston Knight was raised and educated in Europe. Knight attended the Chigwell School in England  and began his artistic training, under the guidance of his father. Later he studied with  Robert-Fleury and Jules Lefebvre. Aston Knight, it is said, stayed away from figures to pacify his father--but he too knew how to make a similar living by keeping the stream and adding a dilapidated mill or cottage, overgrown with trellised roses and other flowers--eventualy peasant girls made an appearance. The formula work was very popular, and in 1922, Pres. Harding purchased a Louis Aston Knight, to hang in the White House, and Pres. Coolidge held a private exhibition of Knight's work during his presidency. But even though the tourist taste has reversed--classic Aston Knight still brings higher prices. 

In 1894 Aston Knight debuted at the Paris Salon, starting a highly acclaimed career. Among his many awards, he won Gold medals at the Paris Salon in both 1905 and 1906, earning him the title Hors concours as the first American to win two gold medals at the Salon in two consecutive years. Knight, was also made a knight of the Legion of Honor in 1924 becoming an officer in 1928 and eventually a commander in 1934.  Aston Knight quickly became well known in the New York art scene and began to do some of his work in the U.S. In 1911, Knoedler and Co., held an exhibition of his landscapes of the U.S. and France. His later 1931 exhibition at the Levy Gallery in New York attracted much more attention.  "Art News" critiqued the show  and described his fame and plein-air approach: "A group of new landscapes by Aston Knight, the popular painter of the Normandy Riverscape, is the Holiday attraction at the Levy Gallery. Mr. Knight sticks closely to his well established formula, doubtless due to the tremendous acclaim acquired in his earlier years when Hopkinson Smith publicized him as the 'painter in the high rubber boots' for Knight wasn't content with studying the action of the Normandy streams from their banks.... and used to don a pair of waist-high rubber boots and setting up his easel in mid-stream, paint the waters at first hand." After 1919 at his country home in Beaumont-le-Roger, Knight built a three sided cottage out over the stream, naming it after his daughter Daisy, and then built cottage facades with wood torn from 100-year-old barns. These were trellised and landscaped for his work. He was an avid gardner, and would see Monet at Giverny 30 miles away, to discuss their mutual gardens. It is said that the stroke which finally killed him was sparked when he learned the Allied airforce had bombed his gardens into nothingness to cut off the retreating Axis forces.

Despite his stylistic entrapment, Louis Aston Knight, although most famous for his formulaic French landscapes, received strong influence from Monet and the Impressionists with whom he was friendly.  He was familiar with the Impressionists showing in the last Salon de Refuses--and when painting outside of his traditional locales--showed an impressionist spark that we think collectors will find valuable. Our snowscape reveals just how good Aston Knight's impressionism truly is--with a brilliant sky and landscape contoured by winter. Called "Un Effet de Neige," the work was likely done in the Pyrenees-Orientale, near to Ax Les Thermes, and close to Spain and Andorra where the grand hotel overlooks the mountains that are now ski slopes. Interestingly, Knight didn't use the word "chute"--with chute de neige meaning snowfall. His choice of "effet"--which connotes "indeed"--suggests that as a painter he sees nature creating a painting of its own--an absolute inpressionist tenet. We  think time will eventually decide in favor of these rare break through paintings. And indeed our snowscape from the Readers Digest Collection was first exhibited at Cornell Univ. in 1989. See: Ithaca, NY, Cornell Univ., Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art,  A Pastoral Legacy: Paintings and Drawings by the American Artists Daniel Ridgway Knight and Louis Aston Knight, 5 May -18 June 1989, no. 51.

The Artist ca. 1920
Classic Aston Knight sold at over $28,000 in 2011
Another Knight set in the Pyrenees-Orientale
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