'Msasa Trees, Olifants River' signed and dated 'Pierneef 44' (lower right) oil on board 45.7 x 61cm (18 x 24in).
PROVENANCE: Sale, Stephan Welz & Co., Johannesburg, 8 May 2000, lot 784 Private collection
Pierneef knew and understood trees. He was systematic in collecting information about them, as well as expanding his knowledge visually through numerous tree studies. This understanding was conveyed by his maxim: "If you paint a tree, you must know its roots; if you paint rocks and stones you must know their geological formation". The combination of tall, slender trunks, flat canopies and dense shrub in Msasa Trees is a fine example of Pierneef's pleasure in composing a "rhythm of nature". His unique skill lies in making each tree distinctively recognisable, and yet his own, through the development of what would become known as the 'Pierneef tree'.
The Olifants River flows south through the Transvaal before being forced east by the Drakensberg; it then crosses into Mozambique where it joins the Limpopo. The current lot depicts a scene of great serenity in the gentle flow of water between opposite riverbanks, lined with Msasa trees. One can only imagine that in the midst of grief Pierneef found peace in painting this image of quiet splendour. The forties were a difficult and demanding period in Pierneef's life - his mother and godfather died, and his only daughter married and moved away.
Other related works include Trees along a Riverbank, sold on 11 June 2012 by Strauss & Co. (lot 377), Olifants River (Mpumalanga), Northern Transvaal, sold in 2008 by Bonhams (lot 38), Limpopo, NATCO Museum, Pretoria, Olifants River, illustrated in Bouman, 1951 (plate 31) and sold in these rooms on 30 January 2008, and Msasa trees on the Olifants River, Northern Transvaal, sold in these rooms in March 2010.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: P.G. Nel, J.H. Pierneef: His life and works, (Cape Town, 1990), pp.93, 157 A. C. Bouman, Painters of South Africa, (Cape Town, 1951)