As the First World War arrived on European shores, Pierneef was revelling in the applause his works were receiving. After his first solo exhibition in 1911 where many exalted him as a genius, his second solo exhibition included most of his new work as well as some graphic works. These too received favourable coverage. The artist started spending more and more time researching South African Art and its influences, becoming an authority on the subject.
Post-Boer war South Africa left Afrikaners with a sense of bitterness towards the British, resulting in a strong sense of nationalism amongst the Afrikaners. Enter Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef.
This was the perfect setting for Pierneef to familiarise himself with the Afrikaner’s way and sided with their culture and art. He went on to illustrate many books written by well-known South African authors and advocated for Afrikaans as an official language. During this time he continued working at the state library, only starting a career in education in 1918. The first position he held was the the Heidelberg College of Education and then later at the Pretoria College of Education.
The time he spent in the then South African Education system proved to be very frustrating. Pierneef’s dislike of the English education system forced on colonial South Africa meant that his career as an educator would be short-lived. He was of the opinion that South African artists are unique and should have the freedom to develop their own style. In 1924 he embraced the title of “professional artist”.
Pierneef’s wanderings proved that not all artists are the same. He would spend many years in public service before focussing on his first love. A journey with many twists and turns, but one that etched him into the history of South African art.
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Source Credit: nladesignvisual.wordpress.com and sahistory.org.za