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Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886, Pretoria, South Africa - 1957)
Pierneef excelled at landscape portrayals of the highveld which provided a lifelong source of inspiration for him. Pierneef's style presents a formalized and ordered view of the South African landscape, often monumental in its conception, uninhabited and influenced by the dramatic light and colour of the highveld. One of South Africa's leading landscape artists and the first artists' whose work was conditioned by the local environment, his distinctive style is widely recognized. Pierneef reduced and simplified landscape to geometric structure. He used flat planes, lines and color in order to present harmony and order in nature. Many a noted South African artist and student of the day, including ardent admirer Helen Anne Petrie can be seen expressing some of his distinctive style in their works.
He studied drawing under an architect at Hilversum, Holland, at the Rotterdam Academy in 1901, with Frans Oerter from 1905 to 1908, and in 1908 etching and wood-engraving with G.S. Smithard.
He was born in Pretoria, the son of a Dutch builder, in the year that Johannesburg was founded; his father, Gerrit built the first house in the new town (in Market St); his mother was the daughter of a Trekker. He attended the Staats Model School in Pretoria; excelled at drawing; his love of the countryside was fostered by one of his teachers.
His family returned to Holland during the Boer War and it was here that he came into contact with Old Master pictures which had a lasting impression on him. He studied at the Rotterdamse Kusakademie and when he returned to South Africa, aged 18, he met with and was encouraged by established artists such as Frans Oerder, Anton van Wouw and Hugo Naude
1900: during the Anglo-Boer War, Gerrit Pierneef organized an auxiliary police force in Pretoria; when Lord Roberts took the town he gave him the choice of internment or deportation; choosing the latter, the family sailed for Holland via East African coast; they stayed at first in Hilversum where JH Pierneef worked part-time in a paint factory and attended night-classes in drawing; later they settled in Rotterdam; although they wanted JH Pierneef to study for the DRC ministry, they allowed him a year at the Academy and a visit to Rome.
1902: with the end of the Anglo-Boer War the family returned to Pretoira; JH Pierneef intended to study architecture, but his father experienced unexpected financial difficulties and young JH Pierneef was sent to work in Lodewijk de Jager's tobacco shop
1910: JH Pierneef sold his first oil painting - Meintjies Kop - to Emil Schweikerdt for R6-30.
1912: JH Pierneef received an appointment at the State Library, Pretoria; together with Smithard and Pieter Wenning exhibited as a member of `The Individualists' Group.
1917: JH Pierneef elected a member of Society of South African Artists; drew illustrations for `Die Brandwag'; executed many linocuts, (until quite recently these were always described as woodcuts).
1920-23: JH Pierneef appointed lecturer in art in Pretoria and Heidelberg Normal Colleges; enjoyed travelling the countryside; studied and copied rock paintings; showed his work in Cape Town and Stellenbosch. He worked for 10 years in the State Library before he accepted a position as an art lecturer at the Heidelberg College of Education and also started teaching drawing at the Pretoria College of Education in 1919. This position gave him the opportunity to focus on his art but in 1923 he decided to become a full-time painter.
Pierneef lived in Namibia between 1923 - 1924.
1924: a new phase began; JH Pierneef divorced his first wife, broke with his Church; remarried - Marian Frances Schoop ; received his first commission - murals for a school in Ficksburg.
1925: at the South African Academy his wife showed tapestries woven to his designs based on `Bushman' motifs. Travelled to Europe: exhibited in Amsterdam; met Anton Hendriks and invited him to visit South Africa; impressed by the theories of the Dutch painter, Willem van Konijnenburg.
1926: JH Pierneef returned home via East Coast; painted a number of his most spontaneous impressionist pictures in Mozambique; began to experiment along unconventional lines - both divisionistic and what he referred to as `geometric' styles - e g Study in Blue; also perfected a complex technique based on a casein medium.
1929: Pierneef accepted the commission to paint 32 panels for the Johannesburg Railway Station, a task he completed by 1932. He visited Europe from 1925 to 1926 which broadened his outlook.
1933: JH Pierneef commissioned to paint murals for South Africa House, London; spent two years in London with visits to the continent.
1935: returned to South Africa.
1936: South Africa awarded Medal of Honour for Painting by South Africa Akademie. Several other commissions followed; his reputation firmly established, he settled on a small farm East of Pretoria and proceeded to create a home, studio and garden of indigenous character; called his home `Elangeni' -- Where Sunshine is at the Gate; suffered his first heart-attack while building his house; continued to spend much time in the veld, sketching trees and landscape; also travelled and painted farther afield.
1947: the subject of a monograph `Pierneef - the Man and his Work' by JFW Grosskopf.
1950: South Africa worked at University College of Natal, Pietermaritzburg; made a pictorial record of Pretoria streets and homesteads.
1951: South Africa awarded honorary- Doctorate by University of Natal. A most congenial companion and an earnest crusader for the cause of Afrikaner art and culture. Honoured in his life-time as a great South African artist; several of his works have been reproduced by E Schweikerdt (Pty) Ltd. Illustrated numerous periodicals and books.
During the 1970s, Pierneef's daughter, Marita ("Miekie") Bailey, and her husband established the Bailey Collection, made up of a large number of South Africa's works and personal effects which had been in their possession, plus numerous items which they sought out and acquired from various other quarters. A portion of this Collection was purchased by the South African Department of National Education in 1975. The rest of the Collection, made up of some 350 items, was placed on public exhibition in a small gallery created for the purpose in Stellenbosch, where the Baileys lived. In 1980, the Department purchased the remainder of the Bailey Collection, with the aim of ultimately creating a Pierneef Museum. Meanwhile the Collection would be housed in the Pretoria Art Museum.
1912-13: exhibitions of `The Individualists', Pretoria.
1913: first one-man art exhibition, Pretoria; many thereafter.
1920: Johannesburg Sketch Club Exhibition; South African Academy Exhibition, et seq.
1921: one-man art exhibitions in the Cape Province.
1924: South African Art, Empire Exhibition, Wembley.
1926: one-man art exhibition, Amsterdam.
1936: Empire Exhibition, Johannesburg.
1948: Overseas Exhibition of South African Art
1950: 25-year retrospective exhibition, Johannesburg.
1952: Van Riebeeck Tercent Exhibition Cape Town.
1953: Rhodes Cenenaryt Exhibition, Bula-wayo.
1962: Pierneef Festival, Johannesburg.
1973: exhibition of restored Johannesburg Station panels, plus associated sketches, Pretoria Art Museum
1979: Station panels installed in new Johannesburg Station Museum; `South African Printmakers', South African National Gallery, Cape Town.
1980: `Pierneef/Van Wouw', exhibition touring South Africa's major art museums, organized by the
Rembrandt Art Foundation.
Pierneef received numerous honours and awards during his lifetime, including:
1935 - The Medal for Visual Arts for his Johannesburg Station Panels as well as for his panels in South Africa House in London
1951 – Honorary Doctorate, University of Natal
1957 - Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy, University of Pretoria
1957 - Honorary Membership of the South African Academy for Science and Art (‘’Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns’’)
1924 - Ficksburg High School, Orange Free State, Bushmen Panels
1929-32 - Johannesburg Railway Station panels
1933-35 - Panels for South Africa House in London
1937 - Mural for SS Pretoria Castle
1940 - Two large pictures, Johannesburg Magistrates Courts
1955 - Broadcast House, Johannesburg
Public Art Collections
South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; Durban Art Gallery; William Humphreys Gallery, Kmberley; King George VI Gallery, Port Elizabeth; Ann Bryant Art Gallery, East London; Rembrandt Art Foundtn;UNISA; Wits Galleriess; AC White Gallery, Bloemfontein; Johannesburg Railway Station Museum; Sandton Municipal Collection; Pietersburg Art Collection.
The Strutt Family Trust, The Mayfair Collection (Suisse) SA, The Mayfair Collection (Pty) Ltd, The Mayfair Collection Limited
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