Up close, when confronted by a Vincent van Gogh painting, the viewer inadvertently is struck by the liveliness of the brushstrokes he applied so generously and deftly, as opposed to looking at a reproduction illustrated in a book. These images are flat whereas in real life his brushstrokes abound with life. The brushstroke is one of many facets Van Gogh used to develop an impressionist technique that captures the moment when observing a scene en face.
The present lot, a rare Pierneef casein, exhibits a similar deftness and agility of brushstroke. These quick strokes were a requirement when working with casein, a fleeting substance made of fresh curd, with a binding agent in the form of a protein that mixes well with the colour pigment. The medium, similar to gouache or poster paint, is fast-drying and an artist has to know the exact mark, the precise brushstroke he wants to make. Pierneef clearly was a master of this technique. The brushstrokes, especially in the foreground, are redolent of Van Gogh.
The famous Dutch artist was always lurking in Pierneef’s mind. He saw Van Gogh’s paintings on his two visits to the Netherlands, first at the turn of the 20th century when the family went into voluntary exile during the Anglo-Boer war, and again, during his honeymoon with his second wife, May. Pierneef brought back books containing many reproductions of Van Gogh’s works, but he was fortunate to have seen the real genius of Van Gogh’s brushstrokes in person. The present lot is a fitting tribute to the style of the master.