Head study signed and dated 'Preller 1938' (upper right) oil on board 24 x 16cm (9 7/16 x 6 5/16in).
Following his studies at the Westminster School of Art in 1934 and his first exhibition in 1935, Alexis Preller returned to South Africa from Paris in 1937 dubbed the 'South African Gauguin' by an art critic at the Rand Daily Mail. His early work is very much influenced by traditional African art, and sculpture in particular, its influence on Western art, which he had witnessed during his time in Europe, and the expression of his own African identity:
"I had attempted to simplify all my forms to as near the 'native eye' as possible, for what appears grotesque to us is obviously what they think they look like." (the artist as quoted in Berman & Nel, 2009, p.5)
The present lot is reminiscent of Woman carrying a bowl, circa 1936, and The Offering, 1938; the latter sold in these rooms in 2008 (both illustrated in Berman & Nel, 2009, p.10 & p.22).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Berman & K. Nel, Alexis Preller, A Visual Biography: Collected Images (Johannesburg, 2009)