The vivid blue morning glories found in at least three of Alexis Preller’s still life paintings were cultivated around the artist’s studio at Ygdrasil, from seeds that his friend, Sampie de Wet, had given him. In The Open Book, the flowers are contained in a deep blue rectangular vase next to a white spider conch sea shell. These are framed by an open book showing a colour plate of Netherlandish master Rogier van der Weyden’s fifteenth century Portrait of a Lady.
Books were extremely important in Preller’s life and they are the subject of a large number of his paintings. He read voraciously on many subjects and was heavily dependent on art books for their visual content. The books Preller depicted in the still life paintings were often open on a page illustrating a historic European figure or a work by a favourite artist.
In the same year, Preller painted Blue Flowers, a still life composition with morning glories arranged in one of his much-loved ‘household gods’, a ‘Persian’ vase given to him by his mother. In Morning Glories and Thorns (1947), a bright red hibiscus is added to the arrangement and Preller again creates a stagelike setting with a book as backdrop, this time the open page showing a colour plate of El Greco’s Virgin and Child (1599).