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 Pieter William Frederick Wenning  (1873 - 1921)



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Lived/Active: South Africa      Known for: landscape painting, etching

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
At Claremont, CP
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Pieter Wenning 1873 (The Hague, Holland) – 1921

Lived/Active  South Africa

The eldest son of a Friesland family with long artistic associations, he had a father  whodealt in prints and artists' materials; during his school years the family moved to Leeuwarden, where a noted local art master, H Bubberman, encouraged his drawing ability and helped him to appreciate the works of Dutch painters in the local gallery; Pieter Wenning was not a robust youth, however, and his parents persuaded him to avoid the precarious life of a professional artist.  He therefore joined the Dutch Railways, reserving his free time for painting; Pieter Wenning gained swift promotion and was transferred to Zaandam.

1898: Pieter Wenning married Johanna Hildegonda Kramer-Bennink - a widow with two children.

1902: Pieter Wenning identified himself with striking Railways personnel and was dismissed from his secure position; during three difficult years which followed he obtained employment with the firm of Haum-de Bussy in Amsterdam.

1905: Pieter Wenning came to South Africa to work at De Bussy's Bookshop in Pretoria: continued to read extensively, to study available Japanese prints and to sketch in chalk and watercolour; occasionally acting as translator at the Supreme Court.

1908: Purchased a house for his family in Sunnyside, Pretoria.

1909: Pieter Wenning began to paint in oils.

1911: Pieter Wenning joined the Individualists and exhibited with them in Pretoria; experimented with etching.

1912: Obtained an etching-press from Europe and began to produce folios of landscape etchings: was transferred to management of the art department of De Bussy's new Johannesburg branch in Kerk St; his wife and family departed on an extended visit to Holland; Pieter Wenning took a room in Johannesburg.  On weekends he would visit the mine-dumps on the lower end of Pereirastown, etching directly from nature (often accompanied by GS Smithard); Pieter Wenning began his series of etchings, Johannesburg- Impressions: also developed his talent for still life painting.  Displayed his works in the window of the bookshop, but did not make many sales.

1913: Pieter Wenning visited Cape Town for his firm: there met DC Boonzaier; a friendship blossomed between them when the latter moved to Jhb (Dec 1913-Dec 1914) and began to show an interest in Pieter Wenning's work.

1915: Short visit to Cape Town to greet his returning family; renewed his friendship with Boonzaier, began friendship with Nita Spilhaus. On his return to Johannesburg, lost his job with De Bussy; took over Denis Lefebvre's art-shop (AB Pringle Fine Art Gallery) in Eloff Str, across the road from the new Johannesburg School of Art; friendly with staff and founders.  The business venture was not a success and his health and spirits declined; Pieter Wenning was offered employment in Van Schaik's Bookstore, Pretoria and moved back there to live with his family; his work was included in Lezard's first sale of South African art by public auction.

1916: Pieter Wenning assisted by Boonzaier and six of the latter's friends, he arrived in Cape Town on three months leave from Van Schaik, to concentrate on painting for the first time in his life; private exhibition in Boonzaier's office.  Returned to Pretoria; dispirited and ill; turned to Lezard for help; Boonzaier also wrote asking Lezard to find some means of assisting the struggling artist to obtain funds for another working trip to Cape Town; Lezard rounded up 20 art lovers who contributed enough for a three-month stay; elected to the South African Society of Artists; a review in the Cape Times 25 Oct 1916 of the South African Society of Artists Permanent Exhibition at the City Hall refers to "Mr Wenning, who has a particularly beautiful picture of the Malay Quarter and a charming presentment of  still-life"; the only purchasers at the first one-man exhibition of his paintings in Johannesburg were the original subscribers to the fund, but the sale brought in sufficient money for him to repay his debt; the benefactors, however, refused the money, asking Lezard to use it for other struggling artists.

1917: South African Society of Artists included in Roworth's essay on Landscape Art in South Africa; commissioned to paint the Vrouemonutnent, Bloemfontein; from now on he spent much of his time at the Cape where he took a studio at the Vineyard Hotel, Newlands: his second sale of work at Lezard's also included paintings made in Lourenco Marques (Maputo) and along the E. African Coast.

1919: His wife died; his own health deteriorated yet further; in the catalogue to a sale of his work in February, Lezard stated, "Wenning may be considered to be one of the great classical painters of South Africa. . ." adding, prophetically, ". . , and in years to come his works will be largely quoted"; worked for several months in the Tvl locvveld.

1920: By mid-year South African Society of Artists was back in Cape Town, but he was seriously ill; he was removed to hospital in, July and did not paint again.

1921: January - returned to Pretoria, was installed in the Zuid Afrikaanse Hospital, where he died aged 47.  He had been a dreamer all his life; deeply interested in philosophy and a member of the Pretoria Theosophical Society, but had eschewed formal religion and his funeral was conducted by lay friends.

Art Exhibitions
1911: first group exhibitions with the Individualists, Pretoria.
1916: first one-man exhibition, Johannesburg.
1917-20: group and one-man exhibitions in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
1924: British Empire Exhibition, Wembley.
1925: Memorial Exhibition, Cape Town
1931: Memorial Exhibition, South African National Gallery, Cape Town
1936: Empire Exhibition Johannesburg
1946: Memorial Exhibition, Pieter Wenning Gallery
1945: Overseas Exhibition of South African Art
1953: Rhodes Centenary Exhibition
1967: Retrospective Exhibitionss, Pretoria Art Museum; South African National Art Gallery
1968: Exhibition of 100 works in the collection of Dr HK Silberberg; plus five works on loan, Cape Town 7979: `South African Printmakers' South African National Gallery

Public Art Collections
South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Pretoria Art Museum; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Durban Art Gallery; William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberley; Rembrandt Art Foundation; University of Wits Galleries

The Strutt Family Trust, The Mayfair Collection (Suisse) SA, The Mayfair Collection (Pty) Ltd.

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