Charles R. Knight (American, 1874-1953) Deer Study

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Charles R. Knight (American, 1874-1953)
Deer Study
Watercolor and graphite on paper
Signed lower right: Chas R. Knight
Paper size: 13 1/2 x 19 3/4 in
Frame size: 25 1/2 x 31 in

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Charles Knight was deeply interested in nature and animals from an early age.  He taught himself to paint by copying the illustrations from his father’s natural history books. Though legally blind because of astigmatism and a subsequent injury to his right eye, Knight pursued his passion with the help of specially designed glasses, and at the age of twelve, he enrolled at the Metropolitan Art School to become a commercial artist. In 1890, he was hired by a church-decorating firm to design stained-glass windows, and after two years with them, became a freelance illustrator for books and magazines, specializing in nature scenes. In his free time, Knight visited the American Museum of Natural History, attracting the attention of Dr. Jacob Wortman, who asked Knight to paint a restoration of a prehistoric pig, Elotherium, whose fossilized bones were on display. Knight applied his knowledge of modern pig anatomy, and used his imagination to fill in any gaps. Wortman was thrilled with the final result, and the museum soon commissioned Knight to produce an entire series of watercolors to grace their fossil halls. His paintings were hugely popular among visitors, and Knight continued to work with the museum well into the 1930s, painting what would become some of the world’s most celebrated images of dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals, and prehistoric humans.

While making murals for museums and zoos, Knight continued illustrating books and magazines, and became a frequent contributor to National Geographic. In 1951, he painted his last work, a mural for the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Two years later, he died in Manhattan.