Modern and Contemporary Art: Evening Sale

Live Virtual Auction, 7 November 2023

  • Alexis Preller; The Shells
  • Alexis Preller; The Shells
  • Alexis Preller; The Shells

Lot Estimate
ZAR 800 000 - 1 200 000

About this Item

South African 1911-1975
The Shells

signed and dated '57

oil on board
25 by 30,5cm excluding frame; 51,5 by 57 by 5,5cm including frame


The Shells was presumably first exhibited at the Lidchi Gallery in Johannesburg in April 1958. The painting shows three gleaming turban shells with whorls of pearly colour, knobbly blemishes, and sea-aged algae stains. These are placed on complex and overlapping hexagonal planes, bordered and intersected by coral and flash-blue lines, and decorated with stars, arcs and symbols. This poetic and otherworldly still life composition takes cues from earlier paintings such as Icarus (1951) and The Mango (1953), and is conceivably a companion piece to Eggs on a Plate, also painted in 1957. Both of these later works included astronomical connotations, in keeping with the artist’s broad interest in the universe, and his fascination in the launch that year of Sputnik, the Soviet Union’s earth-orbiting satellite. Predictably, the compositional design of The Shells reappeared in subsequent paintings, most notably in Ritual Bull (1962) and Icarus I (1971).

Set in a frame made by the artist; the painting and the frame were restored by the artist in 1974.


Professor Danie Joubert collection, since 1972.

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