A view over Chuniespoort signed and dated 'J.H Pierneef 1945' (lower left) oil on canvas 61.5 x 76.5cm (24 3/16 x 30 1/8in).
Second to landscape, architecture was J.H. Pierneef's greatest passion. Architecture in South Africa in the first half of the twentieth century suffered two primary indignities. First was the accusation architecture was not a concept in its own right separate from building, and second was the assertion that South Africa had no suitable national architecture of its own. "In the grey years following the [First World] War, the vitality went out of South African architecture. The Cape, aware of its distinguished architectural heritage, was stifled by conservatism; the Transvaal was gauche and pragmatic without grace. Architectural styles were eclectic, reiterative, tired." Pierneef was a great believer in a simple, honest, national architectural style based on function and natural materials and inspired by indigenous homes.
Pierneef himself was one of few South Africans who passionately asserted that art and architecture were indivisibly linked. One can see, throughout his career, a creeping obsession with architecture even in his natural landscapes. He drafts rocks and mountains with the simplified skill of an architect, building them storey by storey into the carefully prepared landscape without unnecessary embellishment. His trees have the monumentalism and confidence of line of man-made sculptures or skyscrapers.
"Pierneef believed that there would be greater harmony and balance between architecture and environment if available materials such as stone, sand, wood and thatch were used in the building of dwellings. He was struck by the simplicity of the construction and appearance of the dwellings of the indigenous peoples." Pierneef was such a great believer in indigenous and vernacular styles that he designed his own home, Elangeni, in line with natural philosphy.
One can see clearly in A view over Chuniespoort Pierneef's mirroring of architecture and nature. In using a simplified palette and mimicking the arrangement of the rondavels with the arrangement of the trees and mountains, Pierneef seamlessly harmonises the two elements.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: P.G. Nel, JH Pierneef: His life and his work, (Cape Town, 1990), pp. 192-4