Still life with sunflowers and a vase signed and dated 'Preller/ 40' (upper right) oil on canvas 38.5 x 54cm (15 3/16 x 21 1/4in).
A similar work, Mangoes and Sunflower, 1948, was included in the Alexis Preller Retrospective at the Pretoria Art Museum in October 1972 (cat. no. 25) and is illustrated in the exhibition catalogue and in Berman & Nel 2009 (vol.I p.86).
The sunflowers are an obvious reference to Van Gogh, whose work Preller admired enormously. By including sunflowers in his famous painting, Studio Interior - Ygdrasil, 1946 (collection of the University of Pretoria, illustrated in Berman & Nel 2009, vol.II p.33), Preller brought his two heroes, Van Gogh and Gauguin, into his studio:
"Looming large in the foreground of Gauguin's portrait of Van Gogh was a bird's eye view of a bowl of Vincent's favourite sunflowers. By introducing the sunflowers into the forefront of this painting, Preller - by allusion - brought these two Post Impressionists into his studio." (Ibid)
In addition to the sunflowers, and the ever-present Persian vase (see lot 43), Preller has included a closed book:
"Often introduced by Preller, although less common in traditional still-life compositions, were the images of large illustrated art books.
"Books were extremely important in Alexis Preller's life. He read voraciously on many subjects and, living so far away from the major centres and great collections of world art, he was also heavily dependent on art books for their visual content." (Ibid pp.51-53)
Preller's books are usually open at a colour plate, but here he depicts the distinctive cover of a Penguin Books paperback, identifiable by its three horizontal bands of red and white.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Berman & K. Nel, Alexis Preller, A Visual Biography (Johannesburg, 2009)