Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957) Hartbeespoort Dam
Lot 21*
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef
(South African, 1886-1957)
Hartbeespoort Dam
£ 70,000 - 100,000
US$ 93,000 - 130,000

Amended
Lot Details
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957) Hartbeespoort Dam Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957) Hartbeespoort Dam
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957)
Hartbeespoort Dam
signed and dated '-Pierneef.46.' (lower left); inscribed 'Mrs JA Louw' and bears Schweickerdt Art Gallery label (verso)
oil on board
43.5 x 59cm (17 1/8 x 23 1/4in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Purchased from the artist by Mrs Anna Louw in the late 1940s.
    Bequeathed to the current owner.


    In 1929 the artist received a career-defining commission from the South African Railways. The consulting architects for the Johannesburg Station, Gordon Leith and Gerard Moerdijk, were well acquainted with Pierneef's work, and asked him to paint thirty-two panels to adorn the concourse. The murals took three years to complete, and were widely acclaimed when they were unveiled in 1932.

    However, the panels were left open to the elements and soon started to show signs of deterioration. Pierneef was called back in 1946 to restore the works. Revisiting the commission inspired the artist to return to some of his favourite compositions. Hartbeespoort Dam depicts the same scene as the twentieth panel, but it reveals how Pierneef's aesthetic had developed. The bold colours and strongly delineated shapes that we see in the railway panel have given way to a freer and more expressive style. The palette has become muted, incorporating the soft purples and blues that would come to define his late works.

    The responsibility for the advancement of tourism in the 1930s and 40s lay primarily with the South African railways and harbours. The commission stated that the panels should show the best the country had to offer, both in terms of natural beauty and historic importance. Hartbeespoort Dam was a natural choice to promote as a tourist destination. Recently opened in 1923, it represented the sophistication of South Africa's engineering. Pierneef depicts the dam in the distance, across the winding valley. This view was specifically selected, as the scene that would have confronted tourists as they approached from Johannesburg and Pretoria.

    The art critic and linguist, Prof. A.C. Bouman, was greatly impressed by Johannesburg panels. He argued that the landscapes transcended naturalistic representation, communicating the essence of South Africa. In his seminal text, Painters of South Africa, he described the commission thus:

    "Each of the works contains something symbolic. Each is the facet of a cut crystal which the sharp cutter, Pierneef, has taken in hand. That crystal is South Africa."

    Bouman was not alone in appreciating the symbolic quality of Pierneef's art. Fellow critic, T. Roos, believed that Pierneef, more than any other artist, understood what made the country unique, and that his paintings were visual expressions of this affinity:

    "He is teaching us to see, understand and to appreciate the rolling miles of veld with the blue mountains in the distance, the strange almost fantastic trees that dot the landscape of our own land" (T Roos).

    Bibliography
    Prof. A.C. Bouman, Painters of South Africa, (Cape Town, 1948).
    P.G. Nel, J.H. Pierneef: His life and his work, (Cape Town, 1990).

Saleroom notices

  • Please note: this lot will not be sold in the present frame.
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    Specialist - South African Art
    Bonhams
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    Work +44 20 7468 5881
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