Jacob Hendrik Pierneef | Robertson Art Gallery
Jacob Hendrik
Pierneef (1886 - 1957)

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Jacob Hendrik Pierneef linocut of a house by Silverton | Jacob Hendrik Pierneef | Robertson Art Gallery

House by Silverton

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29.5 x 40cm

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef painting | Robertson Art Gallery

3/50 – 1928

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9 x 14cm

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef painting | Robertson Art Gallery

Kaapse Gewel – 1932

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12.5 x 17.5cm

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef painting | Robertson Art Gallery

Rustenburg Kloof

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41 x 51cm

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef painting | Robertson Art Gallery

Rustenburg Kloof

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46 x 56cm

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef painting | Robertson Art Gallery

Transvaal Landscape

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36.5 x 46cm

Jacob Hendrik Pierneef painting | Robertson Art Gallery

Lanzerac Slaweklok

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35 x 50cm

Pierneef was born on 13 August 1886  in Pretoria.  He was born in the year that Johannesburg was founded.  His father,  Gerrit (a Hollander) build the first house in the new town (in Market St) and his mother was the daughter of a Trekker.  He attended the Staats Model School in Pretoria and excelled at drawing.  During the family's temporary exile in Holland  (1899 - 1902) he received some formal art tuition at the Rotterdam Academy.  The family returned to Pretoria in 1902 where the young Pierneef worked in a tobacco shop.  He continued to study artistic techniques - encouraged by his godfather, Anton van Wouw.


He sold his first painting,  Meintjies Kop,  in 1910.  In 1912 he received an appointment at the State Library, Pretoria. From 1920 to 1923 he was an art lecturer in Pretoria and Heidelberg Normal Colleges.  In 1923 his paintings began to sell and he decided on a fulltime career in art.  During the 1920's Pierneef had a number of successful exhibitions in Pretoria, Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Namibia.


Pierneef travelled to Europe and exhibited in Amsterdam and returned home in 1926.  In 1929 Pierneef received a commission for mural-panels for the new Johannesburg railway station.  The completed works (32 paintings) were installed in November 1932.  He spent 2 years in London to paint murals for SA House and returned to SA in 1936.  By this time Pierneef had tossed aside his sober, realistic style and a fresh Impressionist light infused all his paintings of the East Coast. Though he returned intermittently to use divisionist techniques, his canvases were never again so aerially exuberant and sparkling.


He worked consistently in four main media :  drawings, wood- and lino-cut, casein and oils.


The last phase of his career was devoted to re-interpreting corners of the landscape and to creating a pictorial record of the historical streets and homesteads of Pretoria.  A great number of the aging Pierneef's working hours were spent, as always, making sketches of trees and boulders in the solitude of the veld.  The fine draughtsmanship persists, but there is nostalgia in the sensitive, caressing line.  This landscape was the artist's oyster; the faithful, naturalistic drawings are a final affirmation of his lifelong homage.


Pierneef loved the Bushveld passionately and it is the one theme that appears repeatedly throughout his oeuvre of work.


Long before his death Pierneef expressed a wish which defined the source of his inspiration:  "Bury me under a camel thorn tree, with its straight manly character guarding me, and its roots deep in the soil of Africa.


He died on 4 october 1957 and is regarded as one of the most important South African art pioneers.

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