Live Auction, 7 October 2019

Sold for

R 739 700
Lot 597
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; At Pienaars River (Rooiplaat), Transvaal, Bushveld

Lot Estimate
R 700 000 - 1 000 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium and VAT
R 739 700

About this Item

South African 1886-1957
At Pienaars River (Rooiplaat), Transvaal, Bushveld
signed and dated 18; inscribed with the title on the stretcher
oil on canvas
34,5 by 45cm excluding frame


This painting is part of a defining body of early work executed by JH Pierneef in 1918, during one of his many camping excursions to Rooiplaat Farm with his godfather and artistic mentor Anton Van Wouw. Here, they would spend their time sketching and painting vignettes of the area around the banks of the Pienaars River. 1918 was a crucial turning point in Pierneef’s life, both personally and artistically; leaving his post at the State Library after 9 years, he would briefly take up a position as an Art Lecturer at the Heidelberg College of Art before abandoning teaching to dedicate his full attention to art.  


The Piernaars Rivier is a region that reoccurs frequently in Pierneef’s oeuvre, which he began exploring during his school years with friends, Fanie Eloff and Gordon Leith. Returning later with Van Wouw, he would begin to produce a singular brand of post-impressionism that was responsive to the unique atmospheric conditions of the southern African landscape.


Reflecting on this early period, Esme Berman writes “In his earliest work he remained faithful to the tenets of his tutors. He aimed at factual truthfulness in depicting the face of nature and he disciplined himself by drawing endless studies of trees and fragments of the landscape – a practice which he maintained throughout his life” 1.


As she further notes, the human figure would seldom appear in his compositions, with the natural world taking preference over the constructed human environment. The present lot is thus a rare example of a sentimental scene of domesticity, depicting the campsite where Pierneef and Van Wouw would spend their time discussing a new direction for South African art that was not stifled by the outmoded norms and traditions of the English canon that dominated the artistic trends of the time.


Executed with a noticeably dry brush, the painting demonstrates Pierneef’s already confident understanding of light and command of pictorial depth. Deploying a method that would remain consistent in his later work, Pierneef utilizes the landscape as theatrical setting to frame the focus of his picture. The wind swept grass in the foreground seems to part, inviting the viewer’s eye to pause and investigate the structural elements of the composition, where a lone cook tends to pots of a flickering fire. Hanging on the tree are the coats and hats of Pierneef and his companions, who presumably stare back with the viewer, into the scorching sun of this bushveld afternoon.


  1. Esme Berman (1983) Art and Artists of South Africa. Johannesburg: Southern Book Publishers. Page 329

Other lots that might interest you
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; Gold & Green, Rooiplaat, N.T.
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef
Gold & Green, Rooiplaat, N.T.
R 500 000 - 700 000
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; Willow Trees, Pienaarsrivier, Roodeplaat
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef
Willow Trees, Pienaarsrivier, Roodeplaat
R 350 000 - 500 000
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; Tall Trees in a Mountain Landscape
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef
Tall Trees in a Mountain Landscape
R 500 000 - 700 000
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; Kliprivier
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef
R 100 000 - 150 000
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; By Henley on Klip
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef
By Henley on Klip
R 100 000 - 150 000
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef; Landscape with Distant Mountains
Jacob Hendrik Pierneef
Landscape with Distant Mountains
R 800 000 - 1 000 000