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Pierneef J.H.

Pierneef J.H.

 

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef was born on the 13th August 1886 in Pretoria.

 

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef was born on the 13th August 1886 in Pretoria.

He attended the “Staatsmodelschool” with his brother and there he met Gordon Leith and Fanie Eloff. These three would become lifelong friends as well as well-known artists. It was in this school that Hendrik was introduced to the wonderful world of charcoal and paint. The Pierneef family went into exile to Holland during the war in 1900 – 1902. Hendrik attended evening classes in drawing at Hilversum, followed by a year at the Rotterdam Academie on the advice of Anton van Wouw ( who was also his godfather). At the end of 1903 the Pierneef family returned to South Africa by boat and back in Pretoria Hendrik painted and madelinoprints in his spare time while earning his living at other occupations. He started working in the Pretoria Library as an assistant and in 1908 at the age of 22 years H J Pierneef held his first exhibition. It was a huge success.

South Africa is home to some of the most ancient and beautiful art in the world – the rock art of the ancestors of today’s Bushmen. Influenced by his interest in African rock art, he started studying this artform in 1915. Hendrik realised that the principles of rock art could also be used in the South African landscape.He brought precision and simplicity, the decorative use of colour as well as a geometric sensibility to the South African landscape, finding in it a strict but beautiful order. In July 1919 he resigned as teacher to become a professional artist.The future was not financially secure but the independence and freedom was compensation enough. Pierneef was first and foremost a landscape artist and he travelled the country recording its flora, fauna and landscapes.He had a broad and powerful touch aided by a sincerelove of his country and a keen eye for the force and magnificence of our scenery.It was of the utmost importance to Pierneef that South Africa develop its own sense of art without foreign influences.On March 20th 1922 he went to Ficksburg to paint eight panels in the new School hall of the Ficksburg High School and these were done in four basic colours, black, red, white and yellow.He also painted extensively in the Fouriesburg, Clarens, Golden Gate and Bethlehem area and these paintings are housed in the National Cultural History Museum in Pretoria and the S.A.B.C has a collection of paintings done in Fouriesburg. He returned to the Free-State on numerous occasions and worked on sketches of the mountains and ploughed fields in this area in 1955 again. Trees were regarded by Pierneef as proof of the growing force between heaven and earth and the romantic element in his trees and skies is clearly depicted.

In July 1957 Pierneef made his last trip to the Limpoporiver where he did a few sketches of his beloved “Kameeldoringbome”. On Friday,4 October 1957 Jacob Hendrik Pierneef passed away and the nation mourned a beloved artist. Hendrik Pierneef was a man with many facets and today he is being regarded as a great landscape artist and promoter of South African culture. A wish he uttered in 1936 rings true of Pierneef – the man: “ Begrawe my onder ‘n kameeldoringboom, met sy reguit, manlike karakter bo my en sy wortels diep in die Afrikaansegrond ingedring..”

J.H. Pierneef paintings are currently the best investment art. Pierneef's work can be seen worldwide in many private, corporate and public collections, including the Africana Museum, Durban Art Gallery, Johannesburg Art Gallery, Henry Taylor Gallery, King George VI Art Gallery, Pierneef Museum and the Pretoria Art Gallery. Several knowledgeable and affluent art collectors boast possession of this revered old master’s art works.

Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef (13 August 1886 Pretoria – 4 October 1957), was a South African landscape artist, generally considered to be one of the best of the old South African masters. Most of his landscapes were of the South African highveld, which provided a lifelong source of inspiration for him. Pierneef's style was to reduce and simplify the landscape to geometric structures, using flat planes, lines, uninhabited dramatic light and colour to present the harmony and order in nature. His bushveld scenes draw in the highest demand and prices, in particular his paintings of Acacia trees. The diversity of his work made him popular.

 Pierneef held his first solo exhibition in 1913, to great critical acclaim, some even describing his work as that of a genius, which inspired him greatly. His second solo exhibition was held two years later and was also very well received. Pierneef set the trend for a unique South African style. In 1923 he visited Namibia, where he sketched extensively for paintings that would later be completed in his studio. He also held a solo exhibition in the Netherlands, where his bushveld drawings drew great attention. These would later be considered some of his best works. 

When his daughter was born he held a very successful exhibition of 86 of his works in Pretoria. However, during his solo exhibition the following year, he had some abstract modern works on display, which were very badly received, compelling him to revert to his old style. Pierneef was commissioned to paint 32 panels for the interior of the then-new Johannesburg Railway Station. The panels are still on display today in Graaff-Reinet and are considered to be some of his best work. He was also commissioned to do seven murals for South Africa House, the South African embassy on Trafalgar Square, London.