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The passions of South Africa's leading Afrikaans artist for sale at Bonhams
J.H. Pierneef, Bosveld. Estimate: £120,000-180,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A series of stunning landscapes by J.H. Pierneef, (1886-1957), one of South Africa’s leading 20th century artists, whose work adorns South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, is for sale at Bonhams South African Art Sale on March 21 in London.

Second to landscape, architecture was J.H. Pierneef's greatest passion and he brought the disciplines of art and architecture to bear on landscape in ways that speak directly to the heart and eye. His ‘A view over Chuniespoort’, of 1945 (estimate £300,000-500,000) is a perfect example of Pierneef's mirroring of architecture and nature. In using a simplified palette and mimicking the arrangement of the rondavels (huts) with the arrangement of the trees and mountains, Pierneef seamlessly harmonises the two elements.

For anyone familiar with South Africa, these haunting images of the country’s great interior spaces, often dominated by equally impressive cloudscapes, embody the very spirit of this part of Africa.

There is rarely any sign of human life in Pierneef's landscapes. Instead, idealized trees, rocks and mountains are drafted with the simplified skill of an architect to depict an ordered yet detached world in which nature takes on the monumentalism and confidence of line of man-made sculptures or skyscrapers.

In ‘Bosveld’ estimated to sell for £120,000-180,000, one can see how powerfully the Bosveld landscape was a constant source of inspiration to Pierneef. This sub-tropical woodland, found in northwest South Africa, is notable for its tall trees and clusters of shrubs. The artist takes this verdant panorama and transforms it, so that the whole landscape becomes a rhythm absorbing the viewer in the lyrical nature of the scene. The laws of parallelism fascinated Pierneef and the artist's interest in parallel lines and the necessity of rhythm remained constant throughout his career.

‘South West African mountains’ signed and dated 'J.H Pierneef 44', estimated to sell for £100,000-150,000, provides an insight into his love affair with South West Africa, today known as Namibia.

Pierneef visited South West Africa for the first time in 1923, arriving in late April. "Pierneef was elated and threw himself wholeheartedly into making numerous sketches and paintings of the region. It is claimed that some of his best works were done at that time: 'Furthermore the scenes from South West Africa formed the foundation for many of his later works and were certainly the introduction to a formative period in his art with respect to the South African landscape.' P.G. Nel, `JH Pierneef: his life and his work’.

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