The Trysting Placec. After 1875 by
Knight, Daniel Ridgway 1839-1924
Although the rural theme of this painting is typical of Knight's work from about 1875 on, the constancy of his style makes it difficult to date with precision. The Trysting Place shows his open-air naturalism and in many ways is similar to his popular 1888 Hailing the Ferry (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia). As usual he focuses on a pretty girl, here placed off-center in the foreground, with a picturesque river view as a backdrop. The quaint patched costumed are detailed carefully, while surrounding landscape is treated in a broader manner.
Such paintings of peasants were extremely popular in the late nineteenth century and reflect middle-class attitudes about the rural lower class, which was perceived to preserve traditional values at a time of rapid change. Peasants were popularly conceived as living in harmony with nature, while elsewhere urbanization took its human toll. Knight's Trysting Place clearly shares these ideas. Here mundane activities - fetching water, trapping fish, washing laundry - take place out of doors. As usual, between an adolescent boy and girl who, except for their humble garments, might have stepped out of a painting by Watteau, so genteel is their behavior. Like numerous other paintings of courting peasants from this periods, their actions also imply moral lessons. The youth seems confident and persistent, although not aggressive, with his jaunty, expectant pose, with the girl looks away demurely, nervously fingering her apron. Both have put aside their tasks for this momentary romance; her pitcher, still (meaningfully) intact, rests on the ground, while his boat and fish trap (perhaps another metaphor) are abandoned at the shore. Behind them the working women and the church are reminders of the virtuous life of toil and faith temporarily forgotten but ever present. The glowing yellow sky and bright poppies ass to the tenderness of the moment, while details like the boy's wooden shoes help to create the impression of a county vignette brought to life.
Size (inches): 28 3/4 x 36 1/2
Medium: Oil on Canvas