19th century, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts and Jewellery

including highly important paintings from The Shill Collection and The Late Sol Munitz Collection, The Dr Johan Bolt Collection of Cape Furniture and The Dr JR and Mary Strong Collection of Chinese and Japanese Ceramics and Works of Art

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Alexis Preller; Stele
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Lot 550

South African 1911-1975
signed and dated '65
oil and gesso on canvas
76 by 69cm excluding frame

Sold for R 420 000
Including Buyer's Premium and VAT R 477 960

Estimate R 400 000 - 600 000

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Preller spent the years between 1959 and 1962 on the vast, complex, all-engrossing Discovery mural for the Transvaal Administration Building in Pretoria. Having been so absorbed in the work’s meticulous, linear style, he began to experiment with abstraction immediately after completing the commission. With a renewed joy in the painterly world, Preller produced a remarkable group of inventive, layer-shifting abstract paintings, of which the present lot is a fine example. Through landmark works such as The Golden Fleece (1962), Credo/In the Beginning (1963), Helios (1963), Gold Temple of the Sun (1965) and Royal Stele (1965), the artist not only broadened his approach but made a new, striking visual statement.

Taking the vertical form of an ancient, commemorative monument, and painted with a nod to the French Tachiste painters, Stele is built up with a complex, evocative combination of colour and surface texture. By introducing a new sense of spontaneity to his method, and relying on gestural, thick swathes of impasto, the tactile element the artist began to explore in a painting like Stele set the scene for his later, career-defining intaglios of the late 1960s.

Stephan Welz & Co, Johannesburg, 16 April 2008, lot 598.

cf. Esmé Berman and Karel Nel (2009) Alexis Preller: Africa, the Sun and Shadows, Johannesburg: Shelf Publishing. A similar example illustrated on page 251, with the title Royal Stele.

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