Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef was born on 13 August 1886 in Pretoria from Dutch parents. Pierneef started his high school career at the Staatsmodelschool in Pretoria and it was here that he started his art classes.

With the war of 1900 between the Boers and the English, the Pierneef family decided to move back to the Netherlands in 1901 where Hendrik continued his schooling. This experience brought Pierneef into contact with the works of the old masters and it had a lasting impression on him. He studied part time at the Rotterdamse Kunsakademie. He was a changed man when he returned to South Africa at the age of 18. Back in Pretoria the young artist crossed paths with other already established artists like Anton van Wouw, Hugo Naude, Frans Oerder, and also the Irish artist George Smithard who played an important role in the teaching of the graphic mediums like etching- and linocuts.

It was only in 1902 that Pierneef showed his works on an exhibition for the first time. It was a group exhibition with Anton van Wouw and Hugo Naude and was visited by various well known personalities. It was of great comfort to the young aspiring artist to hear the good comments from the public.

Pierneef married Agatha Delen a woman 12 years his senior against all advice from both families on 16 February 1910. Pierneef was 23 and his new bride was 35years old. He worked at the State Library at night and during the day he painted in his studio.

In 1911 Pierneef took part in a group exhibition in Johannesburg and submitted two etchings which were both sold. It was however his first solo exhibition in Pretoria in 1913 that lead the critics to describe his work as that of a Genius. This inspired him greatly to continue working even harder and more disciplined.

His second solo exhibition was held two years later and this show included a large contingent of new work as well as some graphic works. The exhibition was reviewed favorably. Pierneef researched South African Art and the influences thereon and often spoke about this subject.

For more see: http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/jacob-hendrik-pierneef

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