Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957) A pair of landscapes from South Africa House Murals: Bushveld , Drakensburg and Evening- Mont aux Sources, Natal  each
Lot 319
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957) 'East Buttress, Drakensburg' and 'Mont aux Sources': a pair of landscape studies for the murals at South Africa House, London 73 x 28cm (28 3/4 x 11in) each
Sold for £44,450 (US$ 74,635) inc. premium
Lot Details
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957)
'East Buttress, Drakensburg' and 'Mont aux Sources': a pair of landscape studies for the murals at South Africa House, London
both signed 'J Pierneef' (lower left); one signed and dated 'London 3/3/34' (lower right)
mixed media on card
73 x 28cm (28 3/4 x 11in) each

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Private collection


    Following the great success of Pierneef's first national commission, the Johannesburg Railway Station panels in 1932 (now in the Rupert Museum, Stellenbosch), he was approached by Charles te Water (High Commissioner in London 1929-1939) and architect Sir Herbert Baker to contribute to the decorative schema of South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, London. Te Water, a man described as having highly developed artistic tastes, chose Pierneef for his iconic representation of the South African landscape. Pierneef was to join other renowned South African artists such as Stern, Roworth, Stynberg and Juta in creating a beacon for South African art in central London. The South African government paid Pierneef £350 for a series of paintings to decorate the Exhibition Room. Pierneef decided to paint seven panels showcasing the scenic splendours of the country with views from all four provinces. The present lot comprises preparatory sketches for the murals Drakensburg and Mont aux Sources. Both works are also remarkably similar to central portions of the Johannesburg Railway Station panels by the same name.

    The Pierneef family left for London on 27 June 1933. Pierneef delighted in his time in Europe, organising further exhibitions, commissions and lectures. His industrious lifestyle meant he kept up two studios in London. As a young man, Pierneef worked in a paint shop in Hilversum in the Netherlands, where he gained an exceptional understanding of paints and their material characteristics. Thus it is no surprise to find the pair painted equally exceptionally in different media. Pierneef's eloquent use of medium captures the feeling and light of the landscapes. The dappled morning light and shadow of the Drakensburg is painted in an impressionistic use of oils whilst the warm evening light on Mont aux Sources is suitably clear and crisp in the gouache with bold outlines. The slender panels offer only a glimpse of the towering mountain ranges that rise to the top of the panel with an awe-inspiring height. The cropped view contributes to a characteristic sense of vacant stillness, transforming the mountains into patterns of pure colour.

    South Africa House unveiled the mural scheme on 31 May 1934 and welcomed 1200 guests to marvel at the murals. Pierneef recognised the significance of the commission and expressed his gratitude to Mr te Water and his colleagues: "Mr te Water has placed South African art right in the forefront here in London, and that is a service that South African artists can never forget."

    BIBLIOGRAPHY:
    P.G. Nel, J.H. Pierneef: His life and work, (Cape Town, 1990), pp.80-83
    F. Freschi, 'The fine art of fusion: Race, gender and the politics of South Africanism as reflected in the decorative programme of South Africa House, London', De Arte, (number 71, 2005), pp.14-21
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