Pierneef-berge / Pierneef mountains

JH Pierneef (1886-1957)

Pienk wolke/ Pink Clouds, 1922. Olieverf op bord/ Oil on board (13.5 x 20 cm). Versameling / Collection: La Motte Museum, Franschhoek

Die Tweelinge Stellenbosch

Linosnee / Linocut. 19.1 x 12.7 cm. La Motte Hoofhuis / Manor House. Versameling / Collection: La Motte Wynlandgoed / Wine Estate

Kranskop met wolke

Linosnee / Linocut. 13.8 x 10.7 cm. Pierneef a La Motte Restaurant. Versameling / Collection: La Motte Wynlandgoed / Wine Estate


As an element of nature, mountains display dominance in most landscape paintings. To Pierneef, the study and the inclusion of mountains are centered more around the idea of building blocks and constructions, as his mountain formations usually resemble structures of individual rocks piled onto one another. Also, with his mountains, Pierneef captured beautiful tones, either warm or cold. With the portrayal of Cape mountains, it is as if Pierneef gave preference to colder colours and tones for the background, to mimic the blue-grey appearance of the landscapes. Renderings of Karoo mountains usually received a stroke of pink or orange to add a brighter feel.

When Pierneef mentioned key themes, such as mountains, when discussing his work, he used to add a personal touch. As is evident in the following extract from an interview, he also involved the San, for whom he had great admiration for their use of line, simplicity and earthy colours.

“My mountains are feeling well again today. I can tell when they are in a good mood — they put on their best colours and try not to look like rocks. It’s the bigness and boldness of Africa that has always inspired me. There were other artists here in these mountains long before we came — some, perhaps before history, others, the little bushmen [San] — more recently — and their pictures are still on the rock walls of caves which were their homes.