Modern and Contemporary Art: Evening Sale

Live Virtual Auction, 7 November 2023

Evening

Sold for

ZAR 3 200 000
Lot 16
  • Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; Rustenburg Kloof
  • Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; Rustenburg Kloof
  • Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; Rustenburg Kloof


Lot Estimate
ZAR 3 000 000 - 5 000 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium & VAT
ZAR 3 200 000

About this Item

South African 1886-1957
Rustenburg Kloof

signed; inscribed with the artist's name and the title on a plaque adhered to the frame

oil on canvas
90 by 59,5cm excluding frame; 107 by 76,5 by 7cm including frame

Notes

His paintings are immaculate in drawing and colour. His linear design dominates the composition and to this thin colour is applied to emphasise the pattern, so that his paintings possess that classical austerity that is the strength of sound, clear line-work and dignified colour. Added to this is a most attractive simplification of form, until the essence of the scene is put before our eyes with confidence and clearness. We can understand such a picture for we can appreciate its beauty. The real virtue of his art lies in his power to say very clearly in simple line and colour something we have wanted to say very badly ourselves.
- Walter Battiss

While Pierneef often returned to favourite locations, the view of Rustenburg Kloof in the Magaliesberg, some 100km west of Pretoria, was particularly close to his heart. He repeatedly sketched and painted this imposing ravine, with its sheer and glinting rockfaces, theatrical shadows, cascading pools, and dense tree cover. The silhouette of the escarpment, with its dramatic chasm, became one of the artist’s most iconic motifs, and he famously incorporated the scene into his multi-vista commission for the Johannesburg Railway Station (1929- 1932). The present lot, a monumental and museum-grade painting, is one of the artist’s major depictions of the Kloof, comparable not only to the Station panel, but other well-known versions in the Rupert Museum (1928), the Oliewenhuis Museum (1930), and the Pretoria Art Museum (1935). The view clearly provided endless inspiration for Pierneef, prompting intriguing stylistic experimentation, from severe geometric reduction to curvilinear stylisation and familiar naturalism. Of this unofficial series of Kloof paintings, only this present large-format example, so bold in its design and subtle in its colouring, has been in private hands and, until now, out of the public eye. Stylistically, it sits midway between the then scandalously avant-garde Rupert Museum painting and the gentle frankness of the Station panel. When it comes to the palette, however, which is gorgeously muted and serene, it more closely resembles the version in the Pretoria Art Museum (which it probably just predates). As in the other famous versions, the focal point of the current lot is the soaring rock formation and the thrilling cleft. A central streak of blue sky accentuates the scale and verticality of the gorge, while a number of Pierneef’s signature trees – tall, slender-trunked and timeworn – frame the impressive view. A dark green canopy of trees – dense, velvety and dipping with the valley – carries the eye across the scene. How light catches the flattened rocks below, moreover, highlighting the whorling bushes along the banks, and glinting off the water, is quite mesmerising. JH Pierneef, Rustenburg Kloof, 1929–1932, TransNet/Rupert Museum. JH Pierneef, Rustenburg Kloof, 1928, Rupert Museum. JH Pierneef, Rustenburg Kloof, 1935, Pretoria Art Museum. 33 An extant preparatory drawing for this work, in pencil and watercolour, owned by the Pretoria City Council and housed in the Pretoria Art Museum, reveals the skeleton of the composition, with strong diagonal lines meeting at a central point. Pierneef clearly followed the design carefully in the final canvas, enlivening it with breathtaking colour combinations of copper, mauve, amber and olive. The drawing dates the work to 1934, a masterpiece painted then with the Station commission fresh in mind.

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