Unknown Painting by Chambersburg Artist Surfaces After 118 Years

Rehs Galleries, the New York gallery specializing in 19th and 20th-century works of art, recently discovered On The Terrace, Rolleboise, a previously unknown painting by the American Ex-patriate artist Daniel Ridgway Knight (1839-1924).

Ridgway Knight, born in Chambersburg, PA, received his formal training at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he was a classmate of Mary Cassatt and Thomas Eakins. In 1861, he traveled to Paris and entered the ateliers of Alexandre Cabanel and Charles Gabriel Gleyre. Knight returned to the United States in 1863 to serve in the Civil War and met Rebecca Morris Webster. The two married in 1871 and the following year the couple traveled back to France, where they would remain for the rest of their lives.

Once settled in France, they became friendly with Renoir, Sisley, and Meissonier (the latter of which, Daniel developed a close relationship with). Ridgway Knight’s 1875 Paris Salon painting Les laveuses (Wash Day) received critical acclaim and was inspired by a Meissonier sketch.

On the Terrace, Rolleboise (circa 1900) captures a young peasant girl in a moment of reflection at the edge of a garden in a town near Paris. Shortly after it was painted, the work sold to Samuel & Julia WellmanCleveland, Ohio. Mr. Wellman was a steel industry pioneer and inventor. In 1919, upon Mr. Wellman’s death, the painting passed to his daughter Lena Wellman Comstock, who lived in California.

In 2018, the current owners, descendants of Ms. Comstock, decided to sell the painting and their representative contacted Rehs Galleries. Howard Rehs, the gallery’s owner, stated, “When I received the initial images all I could say was ‘wow!’ While Knight painted many views of young peasant girls in the gardens of Rolleboise, this one was a little different. The model was captured in profile, standing at a rocky edge with a beautiful vista below – a rather unique image. In addition, the painting seemed to be in original condition.”

Rehs Galleries acquired the painting and sold it within a few days after putting it on the market. Rehs said, “We posted the painting on our website and sent out an email featuring the work on a Thursday. Five collectors contacted the gallery that day requesting more information. I had to inform them that we were still waiting for the frame, which was due in the following Wednesday. That Wednesday we re-photographed the painting and started sending framed images. Before I could finish sending each collector the images, the first recipient called and stated that he ‘had a logistical problem.’ I asked what that was, and he informed me that he was leaving that Saturday for nine weeks but wanted the painting. I told him that was not a problem, he could have the painting in his hands tomorrow. The deal was done, and the painting was delivered that Thursday.”