Hermann Niebuhr is a South African artist who lives in Johannesburg. He utilizes oils on canvas in a classical painterly style to document urban decay as well as rural landscapes.
Niebuhr was born in Johannesburg in 1972. He studied at Rhodes University, Grahamstown and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (with distinction in History of Art) in 1993.
He spent six years in the arid region of South Africa known as the Karoo. Working from the small town of De Rust, Niebuhr isolated himself and developed his technique. Upon his return to his hometown of Johannesburg in 2002, he began to confront the challenges of living and making art in one of Africa's largest and politically most complex cities.
In Night Ride Home (2005), Niebuhr told the story of a young man from the northern suburbs driving past blurring lights on his way to a safe haven.
Niebuhr's exhibition Night Shift (2008) brought him to the heart of the city. Armed with only a camera, he entered neighborhoods such as Hillbrow which had most dramatically shifted from Art Deco affluence in the mid-to-late 20th century to poverty and crime in the early 21st. Niebuhr photographed the foyers of the lovely old buildings and then painted them in oils, taking the perspective of the (somewhat symbolic) security guards protecting the edifices and their residents. These accurate and objective paintings, unpeopled but resonant with history, create a sense of melancholy around the city's decline.
Niebuhr delved into Johannesburg's history as a gold-mining boomtown for mine, a show un-ironically exhibited at the AshantiGold Gold of Africa Museum, sponsored by Africa's largest mining company. For this series of monochromatic paintings, Niebuhr sourced photos of the mine dumps surrounding Johannesburg—piles of gold dust and mining dregs which are as large as man-made pyramids and dominate the landscapes of Johannesburg's outlying areas.
White Painting, a solo exhibition at the historic Casa Labia in Muizenberg, Cape Town, offered round canvases as portholes into Johannesburg, as though Capetonians could see their faraway sister city only through the long end of a telescope. These paintings, too, were mostly black and white.
2012 brought Niebuhr his first solo show at the Everard Read Gallery Johannesburg. In City Chromatic Niebuhr's mastery of his subject matter, the Johannesburg cityscape, allowed him to experiment with new painterly techniques. In doing so, his previously monochromatic work gained new washes of ecstatic color as well as portions of paintings dripping and dissolving—representing both Johannesburg's explosions of innovation as well as its flux and disorder.
Niebuhr's 2013 exhibition, "Stillness," documented his journeys by bicycle through the Swartberg Mountains and Die Hel in South Africa and the Himalayas in India. Since "cycling is the new horseback," as he told an interviewer, it sets the perfect pace for a landscape painter. The series is called "Stillness" because of the internal space that opens up inside of the viewer while regarding the open landscapes.
Niebuhr currently divides his time between his studios in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, and De Rust in the Klein Karoo.
Stillness, THE CANOPY GALLERY, Johannesburg
Weather Report, ARTKLOP, Potchefstroom
City Chromatic, EVERARD READ, Johannesburg
Mine, PART - Prince Albert Art Festival, Prince Albert
Young Masters, JUPITER ART ROOM, Pretoria
Horse, EVERARD READ, Johannesburg
Decade, CAROL LEE FINE ART, Johannesburg
White Painting, CASA LABIA, Cape Town
Due South, EVERARD READ GALLERY, Cape Town
Mine, ASHANTIGOLD GOLD OF AFRICA MUSEUM, Johannesburg
Bram Fischer Memorial, BRAMFISCHERVILLE COMMUNITY HALL/JOHANNESBURG DEVELOPMENT AGENCY, Johannesburg
The Great South African Nude, EVERARD READ GALLERY, Johannesburg
Champagne for my Facebook Friends, THE CANOPY GALLERY, Johannesburg
South Africa Abroad, HODNETT FINE ART STUDIO GALLERY, Vancouver
Night Shift, THE CANOPY GALLERY, Johannesburg
Antarctica - On Thin Ice, UNITED NATIONS GALLERY, New York City
A Month of Sundays, GALLERY ON THE SQUARE, Johannesburg
Night Ride Home, ABSA GALLERY, Johannesburg
City Berlin, JABLONSKI STRASSE STUDIO, Berlin
An African in Ireland, ENNISKERRY GALLERY, Dublin
Celebrating 10 Years of Democracy, EVERARD READ GALLERY, Johannesburg
Town/Country, CAROL LEE FINE ART, Johannesburg
Joburg Notes, CAROL LEE FINE ART, Johannesburg
Sedibeng Sa Limpho, SOAN STUDIO, London
Inside-Out, CAROL LEE FINE ART, Cape Town
Groundings, THIRD EYE GALLERY, Cape Town
Up and Coming, SOAN STUDIO, London
South African Landscape, UNISA ART GALLERY, Pretoria
Karoo, BRONZE AGE FOUNDRY, Cape Town
Turning Heads, SOAN STUDIO, London
Karoo Scapes, OPEN WINDOW ART ACADEMY, Pretoria
South African Landscapes, CAROL LEE FINE ART, Johannesburg
Contemporary South African Landscapes, KLEIN KAROO KUNSETFEES, Oudtshoorn
Absa Bank; Webber Wentzel Bowens; KPMG; Sasol; Rhodes University; General Cologne; Rosengarten-Rosin & Wright; J.P.Morgan; SAB Miller; Nedcor; Clifford Chance UK, Modise Attorneys; Ashanti Gold; Novocol.