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J. H. Pierneef: Close to Home traces a half-century of innovation and unbroken fascination with the South African landscape Article Image

J. H. Pierneef: Close to Home traces a half-century of innovation and unbroken fascination with the South African landscape

Posted on 13 July 2023

Strauss & Co is delighted to announce details for J. H. Pierneef: Close to Home, the third edition of its annual single-artist auction devoted to J. H. Pierneef, South Africa's preeminent landscape painter. The live-virtual auction features 57 artworks representative of the many facets of Pierneef's prodigious career. The auction will be held on Tuesday, 25 July 2023 at Strauss & Co's Johannesburg auction room.

The cover lot for this much-anticipated auction is Rustenburg Kloof (estimate R3 – 4 million), a nearly metre-tall oil depicting a well-known geological landmark in the Magaliesberg range west of Pretoria. Rustenburg Kloof, with its sharp cleft, was a recurring subject for Pierneef. Paintings of this site are highly collectable.

"This monumental and museum-grade painting is one of the artist's major depictions of the Kloof, comparable not only to his panel for the Johannesburg Railway Station (1929-32) commission, but other well-known versions in the Rupert Museum (1928), the Oliewenhuis Museum (1930), and the Pretoria Art Museum (1935)," says Dr. Alastair Meredith, Head of Sale, Strauss & Co. "Stylistically, it sits midway between the then scandalously avant-garde Rupert Museum painting of the Kloof and the gentle frankness of the Station panel. This important work has been in private hands and, until now, out of the public eye. It represents a boon for serious collectors of Pierneef."

Featuring oils, caseins, watercolours, drawing, linocuts and etchings, J. H. Pierneef: Close to Home offers collectors a comprehensive survey of works by this master recorder of the South African landscape. The sale is bookended by two drawings made 57 years apart. Dated 1899, Violin (estimate R40 000 – 60 000) is an adolescent drawing of a violin in its case made when Pierneef was 13. Produced in 1956, Limpopo (estimate R70 000 – 100 000) is a preparatory sketch for a painting of the same name that was unfinished at the time of Pierneef's death in 1957.

Much loved for his studies of serene wild places, notably in the Eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga), the catalogue includes Acacias in a Landscape from 1938 (estimate (R1.8 -2.4 million) and Bushveld Landscape with Trees from 1942 (estimate R1 – 1.5 million). These mature works, which in the words of Walter Battiss were the first to find beauty in the high plateau, built on Pierneef's ceaseless experimentation in the 1920s.

J. H. Pierneef: Close to Home includes particularly attractive examples of the artist's earlier work from the 1920s, a formative decade in which Pierneef tested subjects, styles and materials. From 1920, Oom Paul se Kop (estimate R800 000 – 1.2 million) showcases his growing confidence with scale and colour. Painted in oil two years later, Bushveld Landscape (estimate R1 – 1.5 million) is one of Pierneef's early career masterpieces. A 1926 casein titled Landscape, Eastern Free State (estimate R550 000 – 650 000) depicts an outcrop near Fouriesburg and is a detonation of colour.

The catalogue for J. H. Pierneef: Close to Home acknowledges Pierneef's interest in vernacular architecture and home life. Dated 1942, Garden at Elangeni (estimate R800 000 – 1.2 million) portrays the artist's homestead east of Pretoria in a manner reminiscent of Hugo Naudé's best Namaqualand views. Painted two decades earlier, Farmstead (estimate R1.2 – 1.6 million) presents an isolated inland farmhouse in an immense valley. Homestead, also from the 1920s, zooms in frontally on a rural Cape-Dutch home. The catalogue includes ten linocuts from 1920 depicting old and socially important Pretoria homes, four of which became subjects of later paintings.

There is a limited-edition print catalogue as well as an e-catalogue for J. H. Pierneef: Close to Home, which provides extensive notes and commentary. The exhibition is also now open for viewing at Strauss & Co's Johannesburg offices at 89 Central Street, Houghton.

For more information, visit www.straussart.co.za.




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