Also known as
Antoinette Pauline Jacqueline Rifer De Courcelles Knip,
Pauline De Courcelles,
Femme Knip Pauline De Courcelles
A natural history artist, born in Paris 1781. She specialised in painting birds and illustrated many ornithological publications. While she never visited Australia her books feature illustrations of a number of Australian birds and her work is held in the National Library of Australia.
natural history artist, was born in Paris on 26 July 1781 and died there on 18 April 1851. A student of P.P. Barraband, she specialised early in painting birds, an occupation which absorbed her entirely. She led a very quiet, almost monastic life, spending many hours at her desk dedicated to the production of wonderful velum folios of birds. She exhibited in the Salons from 1808 to 1814 and was awarded a gold medal in 1810. From 1805, with the publication of the first volume of her book on Tangaras and Todiers (1805-7), she was able to support herself and her mother.
In 1808 Pauline de Courcelles married the Dutch painter Joseph Knip (1777-1847) who had also studied with Barraband. The marriage was a disaster. The life of the small, dainty and quiet Pauline was thoroughly disorganised by the hale and hearty robust fellow, whom she soon sent off with a pension to travel and paint in Italy. The couple had one daughter, the painter Henriette Ronner (1821-1909) who later specialised in painting cats. In 1824, when her daughter was three years old, Pauline divorced her husband and thereafter signed her pictures 'Pauline De Courcelles femme Knip’. She lived at Rue Censier-Saint-Victor, 2, Paris. There is but one portrait of her, done by her husband in chalk during the last months of her pregnancy (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris).
De Courcelles’s earliest work was on American birds. Later she made a special study of pigeons for books by the Dutch ornithologist C.J. Temminck. In 1811 when she had finished one volume of pigeons, she published it straight away, much to the annoyance of Temminck who did not publish his own three-volume work until 1813-15. He stated with much gall that she had rushed in and 'stolen’ his text on pigeons of the world and published it with her illustrations before he was ready with his (for details of the theft see Cowes, 1878).
In the 1811 edition of Madame Knip’s book, three Australian pigeons are illustrated: the Common Bronzewing ( Phaps chalcoptera ), the Brush Bronzewing ( Phaps elegans ) and the Wonga Pigeon ( Leucosarcia melanoleuca ). Many more Australian birds were illustrated in her second publication, her pictures again being painted from mounted birds in the Muséum D’Histoire Naturelle.
The title page of her publication reads:
Les Pigeons, par Madame Knip, nèe Pauline de Courcelles, premier peintre d’Histoire Naturelle de S.M. l’Impèratrice Reine Marie-Louise. Le texte par C.J. Temminck, Directeur de l’Acadèmie des Sciences et des Arts de Harlem etc. À Paris. Mme Knip, Auteur et Editeur, Rue de Sorbonne, Musèe des Artistes … 1811.
I have given this in full because it is important to understand her standing within the artistic establishment, her position under the new queen, and that she acknowledged 'stealing’ Temminck’s text. In 1838-43 Pauline Knip’s bird book was brought out in a second edition of two volumes. Apart from a new title page, the first volume is identical to the first edition. The second volume, one of the rarest and most beautiful ornithological publications, contains new bird illustrations with text by F. Prèvost.
Pauline did not restrict her art to vellum or paper. She collaborated with the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres in producing china, specially dinner ware, decorated with birds. From 1817 to 1826 there are exact records of all the pieces she painted for the factory and what she was paid for each piece. All ended up in the Royal household; only they were able to afford the exorbitant prices she commanded. On special request she added, where possible, the plants the birds ate.