Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957) The bush camp of Anton van Wouw, Rooiplaat
Lot 4A
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef
(South African, 1886-1957)
The bush camp of Anton van Wouw, Rooiplaat
Sold for £146,500 (US$ 188,526) inc. premium

Lot Details
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957) The bush camp of Anton van Wouw, Rooiplaat
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (South African, 1886-1957)
The bush camp of Anton van Wouw, Rooiplaat
signed and dated 'Pierneef 18' (lower left)
oil on canvas
51 x 66cm (20 1/16 x 26in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Acquired in Maseru, Lesotho, circa 1962.
    The collection of Edward R. Erlank.
    Thence by direct descent to current owner.


    Godfather, tutor, mentor and friend: the sculptor Anton van Wouw was many things to the painter J.H. Pierneef. Pierneef spent his formative years in Van Wouw's studio in Pretoria, emulating the older artist's techniques of drawing and close observation. Artists Frans Oerder and Pieter Wenning were also of great importance to the young Pierneef, frequently visiting the studio and engaging him in intellectual and aesthetic debates.

    Pierneef often remarked on the debt he owed to Van Wouw. They shared a deep love of nature, and spent much time sketching and painting out in the veld. A.P. Cartwright published an article in The Star on 'The life and work of Pierneef', May 30, 1960 and a specific reference to the bushcamp outings is made:

    "[Pierneef] acquired a motor-bicycle and a side-car and in this he and his godfather, Anton van Wouw, used to go on sketching and camping expeditions to Pienaar's River. On these outings young Hendrik did all the work while the sculptor expounded the principles of art. I wish I could have been present at one of these camps where Van Wouw and Pierneef talked, sketched, fished for kurper and drank a great deal of coffee."

    In this exceptional oil painting Pierneef captures an affectionate scene from one of their many trips together. Their ease and familiarity with one another is apparent: an assistant cooks and makes tea outside the pitched tent in a show of warm hospitality, despite the remote surroundings. A domestic vignette unfolds on the right hand side of the picture, where Van Wouw and his wife, along with another woman wearing a hat (probably one of Van Wouw's grown daughters or perhaps Pierneef's wife Agatha), share the fresh brew.

    This painting, which has been in a private collection since 1963, represents an extraordinary moment in Pierneef's oeuvre; the splendour of the veld is here the setting for an intimate domestic scene. Pierneef rarely included humans in his landscapes, preferring the silence of nature.

    A pencil sketch of a similar camping scene at Rooiplaat Farm, depicted from a different angle and dated 1920 (sold in these rooms, 17 October 2012, lot 310) is pictured here and was exhibited at the Pierneef Festival in Johannesburg in August 1964 (illustrated). The Africana Museum in Johannesburg also possesses two drawings made on camping expeditions to Rooiplaat in the winters of 1918 and 1920. The watercolour of van Wouw at his easel at the camp, also dated 1920 and inscribed 'Rooiplaat' and 'Oom Anton van Wouw besig om te skilder in ons kamp [Uncle Anton van Wouw busy painting at our camp]' was later reproduced in the 1963 City of Johannesburg Africana Museum Annual Report.

    These intimate scenes are a touching testament to a relationship that spanned over half a century, and also a historic record of the working methods of two of South Africa's most important artists.

    Pierneef movingly acknowledged the influence of his mentor when Van Wouw died on 30 July 1945, quoting the older artist's sage advice in his tribute: "Young man, don't work only with your hands, use your eyes as well!" Clearly, he took these words to heart; Pierneef's union of technical skill and keen observation of the South African landscape continues to draw admiration today.


    We are grateful to Dr E.L. Basson for her assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry.


    Bibliography
    P.G. Nel, J.H. Pierneef: His life and work, (Cape Town, 1990), p.96.
    M. Schoonraad, 'Dr J.H. Pierneef: Biographical sketch and his interest in Rock Art', Historia 14 (2), (June 1969), pp.118-130.
    R.F. Kennedy, Catalogue of Pictures in the Africana Museum, (Johannesburg, 1968), vol. IV ref P199.
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