Louis Aston Knight, son of the widely celebrated painter Daniel Ridgway Knight, painted, much like his father, both in France as well as in the United States. There is, at first, a similarity between Louis Aston and Daniel Ridgway's paintings particularly in their subject matter of the French peasant and their handling of the French countryside. It is also true that the son and the father went on outings together for plein air painting. On occasion Louis Aston also painted the flowers in his father's paintings, yet there was a gentlemen's agreement between father and son that the former would concentrate on figure painting and the latter would concentrate on landscapes. In fact, Louis Aston soon found his favorite subjects in the 'rushing, crystal clear streams of Normandy, as well as in the movement, flow and reflections of water everywhere - in mountain torrents, alongside a ship at sea, or merely in the glistening rain puddles of a city square. It is, therefore, no surprise that some critics should have acclaimed him as unexcelled in his treatment of water in all its moods.' (R.B. Knight, Ridgway Knight: A Master of the Pastoral Genre, Cornell University, 1989, ex. cat. p. 12) In 1905, Louis Aston Knight was awarded his first gold medal of the Paris Salon for his painting entitled The Torrent. This grand success was followed the next year in 1906 by a second gold medal at the Salon for the present work The Giant Cities, whereby making him an hors-concours, the first American landscape painter to receive two gold medals at the Salon in two consecutive years. Simultaneously, both these works established Louis Aston Knight as one of the premier painters of water.
Louis Aston Knight first traveled to the United States in 1905 at which time he painted the New York panel of the present triptych, The Giant Cities. Though Aston Knight did not visit the United States until he was in his 30s, he was a tremendous success both here and in Europe. His paintings even found favor among the American presidents. President Warren G. Harding commissioned a work from Aston Knight for the White House, and his successor, President John Calvin Coolidge, held a private exhibition of his works at the famed residence.
Raised and educated in Europe, Aston Knight had the luxury of being surrounded by artists his entire youth, including such figures as Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonnier. He gained his first elements of artistic education directly from his father, and formally studied later with the great French Romantic painters Robert Fleury and Jules Lefebvre. His works differed from his fathers in that they tended to bear more undertones of Impressionism, verses the senior’s photographic precision. Although Aston Knight did not include figures in his works the way Ridgway Knight did, father and son did share an appreciation of nature and man’s role within it and impact upon it.