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Biography of Jacob Hendrick PIERNEEF

South Africa > Arts : Jacob Hendrick PIERNEEF

Jacob Hendrick PIERNEEF Jacob Hendrick PIERNEEF Jacob Hendrick PIERNEEF
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Born on 13/08/1886 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Jacob Hendrick Pierneef (Aug 13,1886- Oct 4,1957), was one of the most prominent South African artist whose modernist and geometric style revolutionized South African art in the early 20th century.Pierneef is often named as South Africa's greatest painter and his work is widely praised for its combination of raw genius and dedication to technique.Pierneef excelled at landscape portrayals of the highveld which provided a lifelong source of inspiration for him.  Pierneef's style presents a formalized and ordered view of the South African landscape, often monumental in its conception, uninhabited and influenced by the dramatic light and colour of the highveld.  One of South Africa's leading landscape artists and the first artists' whose work was conditioned by the local environment, his distinctive style is widely recognized.

Bury me under a camel thorn tree,
with its straight manly character guarding me,
and its roots deep in the soil of Africa”

He was born in Pretoria, the son of a Dutch builder, in the year that Johannesburg was founded; his father, Gerrit built the first house in the new town (in Market St); his mother was the daughter of a Trekker.  He attended the Staats Model School in Pretoria; excelled at drawing; his love of the countryside was fostered by one of his teachers.

His family returned to Holland during the Boer War and it was here that he came into contact with Old Master pictures which had a lasting impression on him. He studied at the Rotterdamse Kusakademie and when he returned to South Africa, aged 18, he met with and was encouraged by established artists such as Frans Oerder, Anton van Wouw and Hugo Naude

1900: during the Anglo-Boer War, Gerrit Pierneef organized an auxiliary police force in Pretoria; when Lord Roberts took the town he gave him the choice of internment or deportation; choosing the latter, the family sailed for Holland via East African coast; they stayed at first in Hilversum where JH Pierneef worked part-time in a paint factory and attended night-classes in drawing; later they settled in Rotterdam; although they wanted JH Pierneef to study for the DRC ministry, they allowed him a year at the Academy and a visit to Rome.

1902: with the end of the Anglo-Boer War the family returned to Pretoira; JH Pierneef intended to study architecture, but his father experienced unexpected financial difficulties and young JH Pierneef was sent to work in Lodewijk de Jager's tobacco shop

1910: JH Pierneef sold his first oil painting - Meintjies Kop - to Emil Schweikerdt for R6-30.

1912: JH Pierneef received an appointment at the State Library, Pretoria; together with Smithard and Pieter Wenning exhibited as a member of `The Individualists' Group.

1917: JH Pierneef elected a member of Society of South African Artists; drew illustrations for `Die Brandwag'; executed many linocuts, (until quite recently these were always described as woodcuts).

1920-23: JH Pierneef appointed lecturer in art in Pretoria and Heidelberg Normal Colleges; enjoyed travelling the countryside; studied and copied rock paintings; showed his work in Cape Town and Stellenbosch. He worked for 10 years in the State Library before he accepted a position as an art lecturer at the Heidelberg College of Education and also started teaching drawing at the Pretoria College of Education in 1919.  This position gave him the opportunity to focus on his art but in 1923 he decided to become a full-time painter.

Pierneef lived in Namibia between 1923 - 1924.

1924: a new phase began; JH Pierneef divorced his first wife, broke with his Church; remarried - Marian Frances Schoop ; received his first commission - murals for a school in Ficksburg.

1925: at the South African Academy his wife showed tapestries woven to his designs based on `Bushman' motifs. Travelled to Europe: exhibited in Amsterdam; met Anton Hendriks and invited him to visit South Africa; impressed by the theories of the Dutch painter, Willem van Konijnenburg.

1926: JH Pierneef returned home via East Coast; painted a number of his most spontaneous impressionist pictures in Mozambique; began to experiment along unconventional lines - both divisionistic and what he referred to as `geometric' styles - e g Study in Blue; also perfected a complex technique based on a casein medium.

1929: Pierneef accepted the commission to paint 32 panels for the Johannesburg Railway Station, a task he completed by 1932.  He visited Europe from 1925 to 1926 which broadened his outlook.

1933: JH Pierneef commissioned to paint murals for South Africa House, London; spent two years in London with visits to the continent.

1935: returned to South Africa.

1936: South Africa awarded Medal of Honour for Painting by South Africa Akademie. Several other commissions followed; his reputation firmly established, he settled on a small farm East of Pretoria and proceeded to create a home, studio and garden of indigenous character; called his home `Elangeni' -- Where Sunshine is at the Gate; suffered his first heart-attack while building his house; continued to spend much time in the veld, sketching trees and landscape; also travelled and painted farther afield.

1950: South Africa worked at University College of Natal, Pietermaritzburg; made a pictorial record of Pretoria streets and homesteads.

1951: South Africa awarded honorary- Doctorate by University of Natal. A most congenial companion and an earnest crusader for the cause of Afrikaner art and culture. Honoured in his life-time as a great South African artist; several of his works have been reproduced by E Schweikerdt (Pty) Ltd. Illustrated numerous periodicals and books.

Last update : 10/17/2008

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