Henriëtte Ronner-Knip (1821-1909) was born in Amsterdam to Josephus Augustus Knip and Pauline Rifer de Courcelles, both artists. She was the first woman admitted as an “active member” to Arti et Amicitiae, a prestigious art society in Rokin in the Netherlands. From 1870 she painted her most famed works, focussing on cats and dogs in bourgeois settings. We shall focus on a few of them below.
The Piano Lesson 1897
This was my first introduction to Ronner. I am a cat person myself hence I shall be biased in favour. This above painting is truly adorable and exquisitely well done. The scene would be beautiful even without the cats. The piano is rendered beautifully, the dull, weathered dark wood being a particular highlight. The marble statuette in the top left has a lovely reflection on the rich table top. The candle holders are lovely and ornate. In addition to all of this… cats! My favourite is the one hiding behind the sheet music. I am also deeply enamoured of the weary mother cat watching on, exhausted.
Kittens at Play
This is perhaps less refined than the one above but is still delightful. The surroundings are not as clear cut, one is not exactly sure which room the cats are in, tormenting their poor mother. What we do know is that one has managed to pearce a sheet of paper, another is having a nice conversation with Mother and one is falling into a box and looks quite distressed. My favourite kitten in this painting is that one clinging for dear life onto the curtain. The detailing of the cats’ coats is beautiful. Mother cat is most likely a Turtle Shell cat and looks quite divine.
Mostly sentimental portrayals, her paintings rarely offer any metaphorical meanings and are focused only on the cats themselves. She studied her cat subjects avidly and with sincerity. She even went so far as to construct a specially built glass-fronted studio in which her cats could freely scamper about, sleep, and get into the types of trouble that only cats can get themselves into. Daily Art Magazine
Cat At Play
For our final piece we will study a lone cat being mischievous with. This Moggie is clearly in its master’s games room or office, as evidenced by the smouldering cigar in the right foreground. The cat is occupying itself by playing dominos, or at least moving the pieces around as it sees fit. Its reflection in the finely lacquered table is very well executed, as is the shadow of the pencil perched precariously on the table edge. I also like the artist’s name on the marble plinth in the corner.
These paintings are just lovely and adorable. There is not much to think about beyond this, which is a bonus for this reviewer. I thought it might be useful to contrast these with the below.
Cecilia Beaux – Sita and Sarita (1921)
This was a portrait of Sarah Allibone Leavitt, Beaux’s cousin, with a black cat perched on her shoulder. This and the earlier paintings are linked by the idea that they don’t mean anything profound, they are just excellent paintings of cats. Beaux’s painting was accused of being witch like in its mystery. Beaux’s sister later remarked: “Please make no mystery about it—it was only an idea to put the black kitten on her cousin’s shoulder. Nothing deeper.”. I love how the cat appears to merge with Sarah’s hair. I also admire the luxurious way the white fabric has been rendered. All in all an excellent delightful painting.
I hope you have enjoyed a much needed vacation from excessive thought in reading this post. Sometimes we need to stop thinking so deeply about things and just appreciate them for what they are.