Henriette Knip (Henriette Ronner-Knip, 1821-1909) was born in Amsterdam in the family of the artist. Her father Joseph Augustus Knip (1777-1847) began his artistic activities in his father’s studio, and in 1801 went to Paris, where he painted landscapes mainly with gouache. From 1809 he spent several years in Rome, where he made many drawings of Roman monuments and landscapes in the neoclassical style. In 1813 he returned to the Netherlands, and in 1823 he moved again to Paris with his wife and two children, Augustus and Henrietta. When Joseph Knip returned to the Netherlands four years later, his vision began to deteriorate sharply, and by 1832 he was completely blind. First, the family settled in The Hague, and then in Brabant, where the artist died in 1847
Henrietta Knip showed a talent for drawing at the age of five years, copying the sketches of his father-artist. After returning to the Netherlands, Henrietta’s father seriously took up his daughter’s art education. She worked in the studio under the guidance of a blind father from dusk to dawn, because the income of their family depended on her success. The father constantly repeated his daughter about the sacrifices that the artist must put on the altar of visual art in order to achieve recognition. Having become more mature, Henrietta realized that her father’s lessons and instructions gave her a lot more than an expensive academic system could give.
Henrietta Knip quickly studied and at the age of sixteen she already participated in the annual exhibition in Düsseldorf, where her picture with the image of a cat on the window was sold. Henrietta became a regular exhibitor in Germany and the Netherlands. She was very capable and could quickly create paintings of pastoral landscapes, castles, farms, still lifes, portraits, and genre scenes. Despite the fact that all these subjects were very popular and sold well, the artist began to pay more and more attention to the subject of animals. They were her favorite object: instead of rural landscapes, she began to depict cows, sheep, horses and poultry. The characteristic feature of Henrietta Knip at that time was accuracy and attention to detail, she used dark colors, which indicates the influence of her father’s neoclassical style.
After 1845 the dogs became the main characters of her paintings. Critics did not stint on the praise of her painting technique. In 1850, she married Teiko Ronner and moved with her husband from Brabant to Brussels (Belgium), where they had six children. The first years of marriage, her husband was seriously ill, and Henrietta again became responsible for family income. She got up at five in the morning and tirelessly drew to earn a living. And these efforts were not in vain. Henrietta often depicted one of the distinguishing features of the lives of poor farmers and merchants — dog sleds, which were used for lack of sufficient horsepower. Such a vehicle was used throughout the XIX century. These works showed the influence of romanticism, and one of the best was written in 1860, “The Death of a Friend” (located in the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels). The picture depicts an old trader who mourns the death of one of his dogs. After exhibiting this painting in Brussels, Henrietta Ronner-Knip gained a reputation as an animal painter and received a large number of orders from influential people, including the kings of Hanover, Prussia, Portugal and the Queen of Belgium, as well as portraits of her dogs.
Despite the growing popularity, she continued to live modestly and eventually shifted her attention to another beautiful pet. This happened after 1870, when a cat appeared in the artist's house and won the attention of the hostess with her movements, looks and relationships with each other, which was very surprisingly accurately reflected in her paintings. In addition, the theme of pets was very popular among middle-class citizens, and the paintings sold well. Henrietta Ronner-Knip moved in this direction, painting playful or sleepy cats, using all the same dark colors, while the surging modernist movement called her art boring and conservative. Most likely, this is what made her in her later paintings abandon the strictly built composition and use lighter tones.
Henrietta Ronner-Knip died March 2, 1909 in Brussels. Throughout her entire creative career, she received many prestigious awards and honors. In 1850, she was elected a member of the Artis Magister for services to society. In 1857 she received a silver medal in The Hague, a year later a bronze medal in Dijon, and in 1860 a bronze medal in Troyes. In 1861, Henrietta was awarded three medals: a silver medal in Metz, a gold medal in The Hague and a Big gold medal in Lyon. At the end of 1862 she was elected a member of the Academy of Painting and Graphics of Rotterdam. In 1864 she received a bronze medal in Nancy and a silver medal in Rouen. They were followed by a gold medal and a diploma at the International Exhibition in Porto in 1865. Three years later, she received a silver medal in Le Havre and a gold medal in Amsterdam. In 1873 she was awarded the "Art Medal" at the World Exhibition in Vienna and a year later was presented to the award "The Unique Medal of Merit" by the King of Holland. In 1876 she received the "Art Medal" at the exhibition in Philadelphia, two gold medals in Antwerp and Amsterdam in 1879 and 1880. respectively. Amsterdam again awarded her a gold medal in 1883, and in the same year Edinburgh awarded her a silver medal. In 1887, she was awarded the Cross of the Order of Leopold II of the King of Belgium (such an honor very rarely fell to a woman), and in 1909 she became a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau in the Netherlands. Pictures of Henrietta Ronner-Knip are in major museums (in The Hague, Amsterdam, Brussels, etc.), as well as in private collections.