Alexis Preller (South African, 1911-1975) 'The Creation of Adam II'

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Lot 96* W
Alexis Preller
(South African, 1911-1975)
'The Creation of Adam II'

Sold for £ 326,500 (US$ 405,581) inc. premium
Alexis Preller (South African, 1911-1975)
'The Creation of Adam II'
signed and dated 'PRELLER '68' (lower right)
oil and gesso on canvas
136.5 x 126.5cm (53 3/4 x 49 13/16in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Mr & Mrs D. Bieber, Sandton, 1968-1974.
    The Bowmint Collection, Pretoria, 1974-2002.
    A private collection, Johannesburg, 2002 - present.

    Exhibited
    Pretoria, Pretoria Art Museum, Alexis Preller Retrospective, 24 October 1972 - 26 November 1972, illustration no.143.

    Literature
    E. Berman & K. Nel, Alexis Preller: Collected Images, Johannesburg, 2009, illustrated p.224.
    E. Berman & K. Nel, Alexis Preller: Africa, the sun and the shadows, Johannesburg, 2009, illustrated p.280.
    E. Berman, Art and Artists of South Africa, Cape Town, 1983, illustrated p.350.
    L. van Robbroek,(ed).Visual Century: South African Art in Context, Johannesburg, 2001, illustrated p.36.

    Alexis Preller's deep fascination with the rituals and art woven into the fabric of African culture and society inspired much of his early work.

    After the completion of his Discovery mural (1959-1962) for the Provincial Administration Building in Pretoria, Preller's gaze wondered from the African context and its mythologies to explore early Greek cosmology. The exploration of this new narrative was accompanied by the experimentation of alternative mediums and a variety of techniques: part painting, part sculptural relief.

    While visiting Greece, Preller was struck by the distilled beauty of the Greek kouros figures: archaic sculptures from the 6th century BC that celebrated young athletes at the height of their physical prowess. Preller began to crystallise an Adam or Apollo theme, focussing on the creation of the ideal prototype of the first man. He was also fascinated by the fragmentary nature of these sculptures which allowed the mind's eye to complete the image; the fragment standing for the whole.

    Throughout his professional career Preller accorded form, a precision of shape and evocative colour within his idiosyncratic vision. Many of his compositions were precisely drafted and refined forms. In The Creation of Adam, Preller counter-points the defining contours by interjecting strong gestural elements. The forms of the male torso are eloquently forged and played off against a sense of movement and flux. Adam seems to be in a state of becoming, emerging out of the very process of painting and the unfathomable nature of creativity itself.

    The colourist in Preller comes to the fore here with an orchestration of cerulean blues and the varied shades of turquoise, the infiltration of lime and pistachio greens juxtaposed against the dark red and golden accents of the male torso.

    The power of the present lot lies in the grandeur of the conception of the male form. Nel comments that Preller's representation does not present a mimetic image of a man, yet it conveys an immensely powerful idea of manhood that he evokes with a poetic sensibility and a mysterious sense of beauty.

    We are grateful to Professor Karel Nel with his assistance in cataloguing this lot.

    Bibliography
    E. Berman & K. Nel, Alexis Preller: Collected Images, Johannesburg, 2009, pp.225-233.
    E. Berman & K. Nel, Alexis Preller: African, the Sun and Shadows, Johannesburg, 2009, pp.271-281.
Contacts
Alexis Preller (South African, 1911-1975) 'The Creation of Adam II'
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