Pieter Wenning was born at the Hague, and was 32 years old when he arrived in Pretoria to take up a position as clerk in the De Bussy bookshop in Van Erkom's Buildings. Having previously sketched the windmills, gabled cottages and lonely trees of Zaandam, the quarries, eroded ravines and tin shanties of his new Highveld surroundings provided him with the fresh subjects that he drew repeatedly during his first years in Pretoria. His drawing style during this period was dramatically influenced by Chinese and Japanese prints, which he handled daily at the bookshop. The sketches he made on the outskirts of town relied on an economy of line, some restraint, a gentle sense of spontaneity, and revealed a growing distrust of superfluous detail. These traits were unique at the time, as local artists focused instead on more saleable scenes of pinky sunsets, blooming jacarandas and approaching thunderstorms.
The present lot was sketched in 1916, and shows the recently completed Union Buildings on the horizon, as well as Government House. Gregoire Boonzaier and Lippy Lipshitz, co-authors of Wenning, an early monograph on the artist, thought these early Pretorian drawings to be ‘among his finest works’, despite the fact that the artist was happy enough to sell them to friends for a few shillings apiece.1
1 Gregoire Boonzaier and Lippy Lipshitz. (1949) Wenning, Cape Town: Unie Volkspers, pages 5 - 7.
The Collection of the Late Mrs Liselotte Hardebeck.
Purchased by the late owners from Pieter Wenning Gallery, 1958.
Gregoire Boonzaier and Lippy Lipshitz. (1949) Wenning, Cape Town: Unie Volkspers. Illustrated in black and white on page 9.