Jacob Hendrik Pierneef was born in 1886 in Pretoria. His father, Gerrit-a Hollander, build the first house in the new town (in Market St) and his mother was the daughter of a Trekker. He attended the Staats Model School in Pretoria; excelled at drawing; his love of the countryside was fostered by one of his teachers.
During the Anglo-Boer war Gerrit Pierneef and the family sailed for Holland. Here Pierneef worked part-time in a paint factory and attended night-classes in drawing, later they settled in Rotterdam.
With the end of the Anglo-Boer War in 1902 the family returned to Pretoira, but with unexpected financial difficulty Pierneef was not able to study architecture and had to work in Lodewijk de Jagers tobacco shop; he continued to study artistic techniques, encouraged by his godfather, Anton van Wouw.
In 1910 Pierneef sold his first oil painting – Meintjies Kop – to Emil Schweikerdt for R6-30.
After his first exhibition as a member of the The Individualists Group, Pierneef was appointed lecturer in art in Pretoria and Heidelberg Normal Colleges.
It was only in 1923 that his paintings began to sell and he decided on a fulltime career in art. He went off on a painting expedition to Namibia, the first of several.
In 1929 Pierneef received a commission for mural-panels for the new Johannesburg railway station (32 paintings at R80 apiece). The completed works were installed in November 1932.
Pierneef was also commissioned to paint murals for South Africa House, London; spent two years in London with visits to the continent.
In 1951 he was awarded honorary- Doctorate by University of Natal.
His works can be seen in the following collections (to name a few):
South African National Gallery, Cape Town; Johannesburg Art Gallery; Pretoria Art Museum; Durban Art Gallery; William Humphreys Gallery, Kimberley; King George VI Gallery, Port Elizabeth; Ann Bryant Art Gallery, East London; Rembrandt Art Foundtn; UNISA; Wits Galleries; AC White Gallery, Bloemfontein; Johannesburg Railway Station Museum; Sandton Municipal Collection; Pietersburg Art Collection.
Pierneef passed away in October 1957