Ancestral horses through the eyes of Charles R. Knight

Charles R. Knight (1874-1953) was one of the most influential paleo-artists of all time. His depictions of prehistoric life forms make them come alive, gain character, and have sparked the imagination of many that view them.

The first time I came across his artwork, was in the cover of a book called ‘Bully for brontosaurus’ by Stephen J. Gould. But, his art not only depicted dinosaurs, many ancestral forms of horses also captured his imagination and he painted them on canvas for all to see.

As I was preparing this post, Rhoda, Charles Knight’s granddaughter, shared one of her childhood memories with me, and I thought I would share it with all of you.

Charles and his wife,  Toppy and Nonnie (as they were called by Rhoda), lived in 24 West 59th street -New York City. On Fridays, Rhoda’s’ school let out early and she was taken in a taxi to the American Museum of Natural History to be with her grandfather, where they would spend the afternoons and many evenings. Rhoda remebered that Toppy would meet with many different scientists who all enjoyed being with him, and they discussed the latest findings.

From the museum they would typically go to Toppy’s studio to have dinner with Nonnie. Rhoda’s remembers that her bed was set up in the studio which looked out onto the avenue and Central Park south. From the studio window,  both the west side and east side, with central park in the middle, were in view. Just across the apartment building they could see a dozen plus horse carriages  lined up beside the side-walk. Every Saturday morning after breakfast, Toppy would walk Rhoda across the street towards these horses, walking from horse to horse- and Rhoda would stop and talk to each horse- pet it gently and hold out her hand with a carrot and some nuts.

Rhoda, loved those horses dearly, and would stand by them, watching them nibble the carrots from her hands and lick-up the nuts that she offered in a little cup. Toppy worried about these horses, and he visited them to be sure they were properly cared for. After the horse visits, Rhoda and Toppy would go to central park to spend the day at the Zoo- checking on each animal. Toppy worried about them all- he always wanted to be sure they were getting proper care and food!

After the typical zoo visits they would make their way back to the studio to help Nonnie prepare for tea parties!  Toppy and Nonnie were always surrounded by friends, who loved coming to the Knight’s  tea parties.

Rhoda remembers Toppy’s special love for these carriage horses, and of course the animals in the zoo.

These are the paintings of Charles R. Knight we have collected to share with you, with the kind permission of his granddaughter, Rhoda Knight Kalt.


I would like to extend a special thanks to Rhoda Knight Kalt for sharing her grandfathers’ artwork, and her personal memoir.

To view more of Charles Knight’s artwork and learn more about his work you can visit his site at The World of Charles R. Knight