Alexis Preller (South African, 1911-1975) Still life of drapery and objects
Lot 328*
Alexis Preller (South African, 1911-1975) Still life of drapery and objects
Sold for £46,850 (US$ 75,196) inc. premium

Lot Details
Alexis Preller (South African, 1911-1975)
Still life of drapery and objects
signed and dated 'Preller 45' (lower right)
oil on canvas
61.5 x 71.5cm (24 3/16 x 28 1/8in).

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    The collection of Eljra Solomon, Cape Town
    Thence by descent to the current owner


    Having received his art training in London and Paris, Alexis Preller's early work – inspired by the traditional rites and craft objects he observed in Swaziland and the Congo – tended to infuse African subjects with a style and composition redolent of Gauguin's Tahitian paintings. In 1940, however, Preller joined the Field Ambulance Corps as a medical orderly in North Africa, where, in 1943, he was captured and incarcerated as a prisoner of war in North Africa and Italy. Upon his return, and with his artistic vision honed and altered by the intensity of his experiences, his painting took on the dense symbolism and surreal effects that characterise his most familiar work. His return from war is also marked as the entry into his "Blue Period". This period is notable for the use of gem-like hues of blue and green, the dominant colour palette of the current lot.

    From the mid 1940s, Preller focussed for a concerted period on still lifes. For his compositions, he drew on the everyday objects and artefacts in his studio at "Yggdrasil". Preller's objects are imbued, however, with a haunting significance, a luminosity that lifts them into metaphysical terrain. As in the current lot, most of his still lifes include the draped folds of a patterned cloth; a dynamic visual field in which the other objects are placed. In Still life of drapery and objects, two enigmatic crania lie at the centre of the composition: a horse skull and a humanoid head sculpture. Esmé Berman suggests that the distorted human "urn-heads" (torso-less and with a flat base, as in Remembrance of Things Past) of this period unite an awareness of the tribal practices of Congolese cranial binding with his front-line observations of medical trauma. Rather than a direct transcription of some external reality however, the two sets of memories take on new, mythic shape in this unseeing sculpture.

    Next to the head leans a small sculpture. The female form emerging in relief (possibly one of the small carvings with which Preller was experimenting at the time) infers, perhaps, a fertility fetish. The sculpture is angled upon a book: books offer a recurring motif in Preller's work, though here it may act merely as a ballast to the sculpture. As Esmé Berman and Karel Nel have examined in their discussion of another still life, Morning Glory and Thorns, books were central to Preller's life and works. Over time, he built up an extensive library, and many art volumes turn up in his works, usually open at colour plates. Despite referencing real, tangible objects, this still-life seems to levitate in an otherworldly space, heralding key elements of what would develop into Preller's distinctive "mythography".

    BIBLIOGRAPHY:
    E. Berman, Painting in South Africa, (Pretoria, 1993), pp. 156-163
    E. Berman and K. Nel, Alexis Preller, a Visual Biography, (Johannesburg, 2009), pp. 50-53
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, check with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveler's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
* Import low rate

VAT on imported items at a preferential rate of 5% on Hammer Price and the prevailing rate on Buyer's Premium.

Contacts
  1. Customer Services (UK)
    Customer Services
    Bonhams
    Work
    Work +44 20 7447 7447
    FaxFax: +44 20 7447 7401
  2. Shipping (UK)
    Logistics - Shipping
    Bonhams
    Work
    Work +44 20 7468 8302
    FaxFax: + 44 20 7629 9673
Similar Items