During the 1930s, Knaths’ artistic style moved toward greater abstraction, a progression that is represented in Maritime (1931). Duncan Phillips, who became interested in acquiring this painting, borrowed Maritime and several others for his 1931 show of recent works by Knaths. He was "delighted with these pictures,” feeling that "they represented an advance” over earlier creations.
Maritime is a fragmented evocation of a day's sail. The various components of the boat—stern, jib, sheets, mainsail, and deck—are abstracted and dispersed throughout the composition, reinforcing the sense of flatness. Knaths employed pristine, yet elegant lines to separate the planes of color, to partially frame the composition, and to designate the objects. The general effect is a tightly structured image that elicits a mood of tranquility. With these spare elements, Knaths was referring perhaps to a temporal progression through a day of sailing.
The upper and lower halves of the composition are each divided into three planes of color: while the lower half with a central plane of pale coral is framed on either side by bands of deep blue, a reference perhaps to the deck of the boat surrounded by the ocean, the upper section with golden yellow, rich coral, and clear blue apparently depicts the morning, evening, and daytime skies. The effect is enhanced by delicate associations, such as the placement of the boat's stern within the plane of color to represent the evening sunset and reinforce the notion of day's end.
Although the concept for this painting seems fresh and unusual, it nevertheless reveals the influence of Stuart Davis. Not only were Knaths and Davis both represented by Downtown Gallery, but in 1930, following his return from France, Davis spent some time in Provincetown. The two artists were certainly aware of one another, as Knaths was a juror in the Provincetown annual exhibition of modern art, a show at which Davis exhibited. In its distilled abstraction, Maritime has the same flat, linear emphasis of Davis's Eggbeater No. 4, 1928. Just as Davis broke down the components of an eggbeater, electric fan, and rubber glove, in this painting, Knaths separated the parts of a boat.