She was born in Amsterdam into a family of artists and received her first lessons from her father, Josephus Augustus Knip, who also gave lessons to her aunt (his youngest sister), Henriëtte Geertruida Knip. His father, Nicolaas (1741–1808), was an artist as well. Some sources indicate that her mother was Pauline Rifer de Courcelles, a painter of birds, who was her father's first wife but, at the time of her birth, they were apparently separated and he was living with his mistress, Cornelia van Leeuwen (1790–1848), who is also credited with being Henriëtte's mother.
The family moved often as her father found work giving lessons. But, by 1823 her father was already blind in one eye. The following year, he and Pauline were finally divorced and he married Cornelia. After he became totally blind in 1832, the family continued to move about, staying for a short time in The Hague, then Beek and 's-Hertogenbosch before settling in Berlicum in 1840. By this time, she was essentially in charge of the family's finances and legal obligations, and had begun painting seriously by 1835. She was a participant in the Exhibition of Living Masters [nl] in 1838.
After Cornelia's death, she moved to Amsterdam where she painted farms, animals and forests from nature; first in watercolor, then in oils. That same year, she became the first woman admitted as an "active member" to Arti et Amicitiae. In 1850, she married Feico Ronner (1819-1883) and they moved to Brussels. He was often ill and could not be regularly employed, so he became her manager. At this time, she narrowed her subject matter, focusing almost entirely on dogs and cats. After 1870, she painted her most famous works, featuring long-haired, often playful cats in bourgeois settings. She continued to paint dogs too; notably lapdogs belonging to Marie Henriette of Austria and Princess Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Ronner-Knip exhibited her work at the Palace of Fine Arts at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.
In her later years, she had a house with a large garden, where she kept hunting dogs, cats and a parrot that she used as models. After observing them in her studio, she would make paper sculptures in the desired poses and set them together with props, such as furniture and fabrics. She occasionally collaborated with the genre artist, David Col.
In 1887, she was awarded the Order of Leopold and, in 1901, became a member of the Order of Orange-Nassau. Her son Alfred and daughters Alice and Emma [nl] also became artists. She often exhibited with them.
She died on 28 February 1909 in Ixelles.
Knip was very successful at the triennial “salons” in Belgium and the Living Masters Exhibitions in the Netherlands, but also in all major European, American and Australian cities. She received many silver and gold medals of honor; she became a knight in the Order of Leopold in 1887 and a knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1901. There are known paintings in which Knip collaborated with the Belgian artist David Col (1822-1900).
To illustrate, some titles of salon entries: “Happy family” (Antwerp, 1855); “A move” (Antwerp, 1858); "Man and his friends" and "Hunting dogs" (Antwerp, 1861); “Fox in the chicken coop” and “Hondenspan” (Antwerp, 1873); “The painting school” and “Hunting in the Kempen” (Ghent, 1880); “Chess and mat” and “Where can one be better” (Ghent 1883); "The intruder" (Antwerp, 1888); "An invasion" and "The waiting" (Ghent, 1889); Schelmen (Antwerp, 1894).
The age brought with it some celebrations: for example, the Rotterdam Art Circle organized a solo exhibition in 1886 with 80 works on its 65th birthday. The Fine Arts Society in London followed in 1890 with a retrospective of 113 works, "Paintings of the Animal Life by H. Ronner". In 1898 she had a double exhibition with daughter Alice Ronner at the Kunsthandel Oldenzeel in Rotterdam. Also in the beautiful room of the Cercle Artistique on the Antwerp Arenbergstraat, she had an exhibition together with daughter Alice (after 1894)
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Rijksprentenkabinet en Universiteit (UvA);
Antwerpen, Kon. Museum voor Schone Kunsten;
Bergen op Zoom, Museum Markiezenhof;
Brussel, Museum van Elsene
Den Haag, Gemeentemuseum;
Den Haag, Stichting Historische Verzamelingen van het huis Oranje Nassau
Dordrecht, Dordrechts Museum;
Haarlem, Gemeentearchief en Teylers Museum (De Pianoles uit 1897 en Katje uit 1896);
Leiden, Rijksuniversiteit en Prentenkabinet;
Maaseik, John Selbach Museum;
Bergen (Mons), Musée des Beaux-Arts
Haastrecht, Museum Bisdom van Vliet;
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen.
Stirling (GB), Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum