Amsterdam 1821 - 1909 Brussels
Signed lower right: Henriette Ronner
Oil on panel: 12 ¾ x 18 in / 32.5 x 45.5 cm
Frame size: 18 7/8 x 24 in / 47.9 x 61 cm
Cats are well known for their endearing independence of spirit. The most popular of pets in the western world, the cat is celebrated for its intelligence and delightful disobedience. Playtime perfectly illustrates these feline characteristics, depicting a mother cat as she lovingly watches her kittens explore their luxurious surroundings. While the mother sits proudly on a green silk footstool, the kittens are more actively posed. One peers over the edge of a red velvet chair, covered with a paisley shawl, looking down at his siblings. Another balances precariously upon a wooden rung of the same chair, while his playmate holds on with two paws. The fourth pounces on the strings of a carefully placed violin. Recording the lustrous sheen of wood and the delicate patterns of various fabrics, Ronner-Knip exhibits her talent for rendering both individual texture and character. Each of the kittens is positioned to display a different view of their mischievous play, with individual expressions revealing independent characters.
Amsterdam 1821 - 1909 Brussels
Henriette Ronner-Knip is perhaps best known for her paintings of dogs and cats, but it was not until her later life that she specialised in these genres. She 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 her first painting in an exhibition at Dusseldorf.
During her early years, Ronner-Knip painted many subjects including genre scenes, landscapes and still lifes. In 1850, she married Telco Ronner and they moved to Brussels where she was to spend the rest of her life. In 1860, she 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 her to paint two of her favourite lap-dogs in 1876 and the success of these works led to many more commissions. Ronner Knip counted 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. She began to paint cats in works that were popular for their humorous and anthropomorphic characterisation. These domestic pets were often depicted in luxurious interiors, lying on silk cushions and chairs or playing in fancy baskets.
Ronner-Knip exhibited widely throughout her career and was elected to many artistic societies. The ‘Natura Artis Magistra’ Society of Amsterdam elected her to membership in 1850 and Ronner-Knip was made a member of merit in the Academy of Painting and Drawing in Rotterdam in 1861. Her paintings won medals in exhibitions around the world, including two bronze medals, one vermeil medal, five silver medals and six gold medals. The King of The Netherlands also presented her with a ‘Unique Medal of Merit’ in 1874. Her international reputation was confirmed at the prestigious Worlds Fairs. First by an artistic medal at the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876, then by a gold medal at the Colonial and International Exposition held in Amsterdam in 1883 and a silver medal at the Universal Exhibition held in Edinburgh in 1883.
Ronner Knip was awarded the Cross of the Order of Léopold in 1887 by Léopold II King of the Belgians, an honour rarely bestowed upon a woman artist. In 1891, a Henriette Ronner Album was published with twelve reproductions of her most famous works. She died in Brussels in 1909.
The work of Ronner-Knip is represented in several museums including the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the Dordrechts Museum.