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Henriëtte Ronner-Knip BiographyDutch artist
born 1821 - died 1909
Henriette Ronner-Knip is perhaps best known for her oil paintings of dogs and cats, but it was not until her later life that she specialised in these genres. Henriette Ronner-Knip came from a family of artists and received her earliest tuition from her father Joseph Augustus Knip (1777-1847). At the age of fifteen, she sold first Henriette Ronner-Knip work in an exhibition at Dusseldorf.
During her early years,
Henriette Ronner-Knip painted many subjects including
genre scene paintings, landscapes and still
life paintings. In 1850, she married Telco
Ronner and they moved to Brussels where she
was to spend the rest of her life. In 1860,
Henriette Ronner-Knip artist exhibited a painting entitled La
mort d’un ami which was highly acclaimed,
establishing her reputation as a painter of
dogs. The Queen of Belgium commissioned
Henriette Ronner-Knip to paint two of her favourite
lap-dogs in 1876 and the success of these
paintings led to many more commissions.
Henriette Ronner-Knipcounted most of the crowned
heads of Europe amongst her patrons. Among
her most prestigious clients were the King
of Hanover, Don Fernando King of Portugal,
Emperor Wilhelm I King of Prussia, Baron Tindal of Amsterdam, the Duchess of
Edinburgh and the Princess of Wales. Henriëtte Ronner-Knip
began to paint cats in paintings that were
popular for their humorous and
anthropomorphic characterization. These
domestic pets were often depicted in
luxurious interiors, lying on silk cushions
and chairs or playing in fancy baskets.
|Shortly after moving to Brussels, she concentrated on painting images with dogcarts, which was a common means of transportation by the less well-to-do farmers and peddlers during the nineteenth century. These Henriette Ronner-Knip works evoked a Romantic influence, which is best reflected in one of her more popular Henriette Ronner-Knip paintings, Death of a Friend (1860, Museum of Fine Art, Brussels). This Henriette Ronner-Knip work, which measures eight feet by six feet, depicts an old sand seller weeping over the death of one of his dogs, still harnessed to the cart. This Henriette Ronner-Knip art was highly acclaimed and as noted by E. Baes in 1887 “continued to be one of her most beautiful creations because maybe it reflects an era that is not so far away, yet absolutely different than the one we are obliged to live in.” (Baes, p. 187)|
After exhibiting this Henriette Ronner-Knip painting in Brussels
in 1860, she established her reputation as a dog painter, and subsequently
received an increasing number of commissions from many distinguished patrons.
Among them were the Kings of Hanover, Prussia, Portugal, and the Queen of
Belgium as well as the Countess of Flanders who asked her to paint portraits of
Despite her growing popularity, she continued to live modestly and eventually changed the subject matter of Henriëtte Ronner-Knip paintings, which had initially contributed to her fame. Around 1870, she shifted her attention from painting dogs to cats. That change occurred when a cat found her way into her home, and her curiosity was aroused. As Henriëtte Ronner-Knip cats became new models, she began to observe and study their attitudes, movements, and expressions, which she remarkably captured in her canvases. Spielman remarked that she is “one of the very few eminent animal painters of the day, and as a specialist one of the most admirable of all times,” and Henriette Ronner Knip praised Henriette Ronner-Knip art technique comparing it to Rosa Bonheur’s (1822-1899), saying that it is “virile, vigorous, decisive, unfailing in its truth, and admirable in its result.” (Spielman, pp. 34, 36)
Because cats were increasingly kept as house-pets, this subject became particularly popular among the art-buying urban middle class. Thus, Henriette Ronner-Knip continued to produce a variety of scenes of sleepy cats and playful kittens in her usual dark colors. . (Kraaij, p. 1196) In the 1880s and 1890s, Henriëtte Ronner-Knip paintings came to include some of the popular motifs influenced by Japanese and Chinese art. As she increased her production of Henriette Ronner-Knip art paintings, she also began making a water color or oil sketch for each painting in order to avoid repetition and detect forgeries. However, as modernism gained more prominence, her work began to be described as “uninspiring and conservative,” and these unfavorable remarks may have possibly led her to use a lighter palette, and move away from her carefully arranged compositions. (as noted by Kraaij, p. 1196) She died on March 2, 1909 in Brussels.
a rare honor
for a woman to receive, and in 1909 she
became Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau,
the Henriette Ronner-Knip paintings can be seen at several museums including the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Dordrechts Museum, Dordecht; and the Museum of Fine Art, Brussels.
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