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Discover what made the future: JH Pierneef

If you are South African you have almost definitely seen Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef’s landscape art at some point.

JH Pierneef, more commonly referred to as Pierneef, was a South African artist born on the other side of the 20th century and is considered to be one of the South African old masters. His landscapes were predominantly of the highveld, which would explain why he was drawn back to the South African plains, even after his family moved back to the Netherlands in 1901.

Pierneef used his time in the Netherlands wisely by studying the great European artists while at an art school Rotterdam before his solo return to South Africa at the age of eighteen. He carved out his own style in which he strove to emphasise the eloquent order that is nature. His career was given a boost by another well known South African, Anton van Wouw, his godfather.

Pierneef’s work made its first public appearance in an exhibition with van Wouw and Naude in 1902. During this time he was working the State Library night shift and creating art in the day… possibly a reason for him being so drawn to colour and light. In 1913 his first solo exhibition was very well received allowing him to segue into art lecturing in 1918.

Pierneef tried his hand at some abstract modern art but came back to landscape art. He was commissioned to paint panels on the interior of the Johannesburg Railway Station, practically making him the South African Michelangelo.

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