Daniel Ridgway Knight
- Daniel Ridgway Knight
- Burning Brush
- signed Daniel Ridgway Knight, inscribed Paris and dated 1884 (lower right)
- oil on canvas
- 46 1/2 by 58 in.
- 118.1 by 147.3 cm
Knoedler & Co., New York (no. 4643, acquired September 4, 1884)
Mrs. Mary J. Munsil, Hartford, Connecticut (1884)
As a proponent of painting en plein air, Ridgway Knight closely studied natural light and his masterful technique can be seen in the present work as he effectively depicts the flat overcast sky of autumn. The burning of field weeds took place after the harvest, when the gleaners had completed their foraging. The event signaled the coming of winter, as illustrated by the peasants' heavy clothing. In Burning Brush, each detail of the landscape, field workers' costumes and gestures are carefully described to suggest how the efforts of "simple" tasks affected the women of Poissy. Ridgway Knight was also influenced by the works of Jean-François Millet and, while painting in Barbizon in 1874, he visited the artist. However, Ridgway Knight was not seduced by Millet’s realist view of rural farm life, choosing instead to depict his peasants in more cheerful circumstances. Such an idealization of the rural laborer followed themes established earlier in the nineteenth century and popularized by Ridgway Knight's contemporaries, such as Jules Breton and even William Bouguereau. In fact, the subject and composition of Burning Brush evokes Jules Breton's masterful Salon entry of 1869, Les Mauvaises Herbes (sold in these rooms, April 23, 2004, lot 28), which Ridgway Knight may have known through a commonly reproduced etching.