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Important South African and International Art


2:00pm Mon 13 November 2017


South African 1911-1975
Sea Amphora
signed and dated 62
oil on panel
51 by 38cm

This work, Sea Amphora, was exhibited as part of a series of four works titled, Sea Amphora, Sun Amphora, Earth Amphora and Winged Amphora, at the Pieter Wenning Gallery in 1962. This was an unexpected departure in concept and handling of a newly introduced classical Greek theme, a new dimension in Preller’s mythography. He had long been fascinated by Grecian art, was widely read and very knowledgeable about the ancient culture, although his only previous use of Grecian subject matter in a major painting had been in Wounded Sculpture (1947). The new works projected an altogether different mood. In this painting, an amphora or vessel-like form floats rather flatly on an azure blue background. A stark tonal rendition of a bearded head of Poseidon, from a famous ancient Greek bronze, is imposed on the golden-ochre urn form.

Preller finally travelled to Greece and Turkey in 1968, seeing at firsthand the early Greek bronzes and marble Kouros figures, which further prompted the influence of ancient Greek art on the themes of his future work.

Sea Amphora was included on the 1972 Preller Retrospective at the Pretoria Art Museum. The long-term influence of this image of the Poseidon head only became apparent when it was eventually exhibited alongside his subsequent large intaglio mythical heads, made after his return from Greece. These intaglios were an unusual Preller innovation, in his use of a negative cast relief, a mould-like structure cast in resin and then painted to read in reverse.  

Karel Nel

Pieter Wenning Gallery, November 1962.

Pretoria Art Museum, Arcadia Park, Alexis Preller Retrospective, 24 October 1972 - 26 November 1972, catalogue number 99. Illustrated, unpaginated.

Estimate: R 1 500 000 - 2 000 000

This lot sold for R 1 500 000
R 1 705 200 incl Buyers Premium and VAT

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