Edward Roworth, dominant force in South African art in the early years of the 20th century, reluctantly accepted J H Pierneef in the ranks of the South African Society of Artists in 1917, an organisation he founded in 1902. Roworth had just published an article, ‘’Landscape Art in South Africa’’ in the British publication, Art of the British Empire Overseas, listing such artists as Allerley Glossop, Gwelo Goodman, Hugo Naudé, Ruth Prowse, Nita Spilhaus and Peter Wenning, but omitted Pierneef. What quickly became apparent when paging through the book was how similar the South African landscape painters were to their Canadian, Australian and New Zealand counterparts. Roworth considerd Pierneef too progressive and the present lot, painted in the early 1920s, attests as to why Roworth was of that opinion. In this landscape, Pierneef completely breaks with the Roworth template of landscape painting.
Pierneef’s Namibian landscape exhibits a much more abstract sensibility than the romantic realism of the Roworth school. It is more daring in the use of pared down colours of pinks, purples and oranges. It is more adventurous in composition than the staid, formulaic landscape of the Roworth group of early Cape artists. Most importantly, it acknowledges the special light of the Namibian landscape as opposed to the familiar dark European sky. Namibia, or South West Africa as it was in Pierneef’s time, inspired his work in a profound way from the first time he visited the country in 1923. This landscape suggests the vast possibilities an artist can explore if he is receptive to the local environment.