Tweede besoek aan Europa / Second visit to Europe

JH Pierneef (1886-1957)

Groene Kade, Brugge 1925. Gemengde media / Mix media (32 x 48 cm). Versameling / Collection: La Motte Museum, Franschhoek

JH Pierneef (1886-1957)

Gate House, Bruges (1925). Olieverf op skilderbord / Oil paint on board. Versameling / Collection: DITSONG Museums of South Africa


Pierneef’s first opportunity to go beyond the borders of South Africa was at the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War, in 1899. Pierneef’s father Gerrit was deported to the Netherlands and all seven of the Pierneef children accompanied their parents. While in Rotterdam, Pierneef enrolled at the Academia Erasmania for evening classes, and he also received drawing classes from an architect. This was officially Pierneef’s first encounter with European art. Soon after, in 1903, the Pierneefs returned to Pretoria.

It was especially during the late 1910s that Pierneef started expressing his wish to return to Europe to study the various art movements. Due to unsuccessful applications for a bursary and the refusal, by the State, of a grant to travel, this wish merely remained a dream.

Following his return from his travels to Namibia his friends advocate Gordon Price and wife Dora organised an exhibition at their home in Pretoria. The proceeds of this exhibition helped Pierneef and his newly wedded wife to plan the return trip to Europe, and on 22 June 1925 Pierneef and May embarked the Banalla, to arrive in London on 10 August.

Pierneef’s ambition and dedication are evident in letters to J S Smit (an advocate and high commissioner of the Union of South Africa in London). In these letters Pierneef expressed his wish to show his work at exhibitions abroad and to study new methods and techniques. He wrote: “My idea is to try to give the Afrikaner people guidance in the sphere of Art in general and especially to lead them to see and appreciate the beauties of their own country in order to lay a foundation for a true Afrikaans Art, because genuine Art frees a nation”.

As early as his first week in London he sold linocuts to the Victoria and Albert Museum. This transaction led to a further collection of 12 linocuts being sold in 1931.

During their time in Europe, Pierneef and May travelled to Düsseldorf, Munich, Berlin, Paris, Antwerp and Bruges. Architectural drawings of Redcliffe Gardens, the Thames, Battersea, Chelsea (London), Gouden Hand Rey, Market Place, Koringmark, Town Gates, Begijnenhof, Minnewater and Mills (Bruges), Montmartre, Le Quai Vert (Paris) and churches in Veere and Amsterdam were made.

During his travels through towns Pierneef made many drawings. Today, art dealers and experts place a high value on these preliminary works, as they are not available in the volumes of sketches and drawings rendered within the borders of South Africa.

Bron / Source

Nel, P G (eds) 1990. J H Pierneef: His life and his work. Cape Town: Perskor. p64-67