Live Auction, 7 October 2019

Sold for

R 341 400
Lot 643
Alexis Preller; Coral Fish

Lot Estimate
R 180 000 - 240 000
Selling Price
Incl. Buyer's Premium and VAT
R 341 400

About this Item

South African 1911-1975
Coral Fish
signed and dated '48; inscribed with the title on the reverse
oil on canvas board
14,5 by 18,5cm excluding frame


Preller’s interest in the decorative properties of tropical fish was aroused by the wondrous sights amid the coral reefs off Mahé island. For six months from October 1948, Alexis lived on the island and produced a number of studies of the local species. He revelled in their infinite variety of design and colour, and almost everything he saw delighted him. With his brush everything seemed to take on new, exotic undertones and he painted fruits and flowers, shells and fish, mangoes and even sandals on the beach. Taking on a surrealist theme these small works seem to be imbued with light themselves, as can be seen reflected within the water in Coral Fish. In August of 1949, Preller held an exhibition of his Seychelles works at the Gainsborough Gallery in Johannesburg. There were 42 works exhibited in total, though only 29 of these works were actually completed in the Seychelles. Of these 29 works, five of them were of various tropical fish – Gold & Blue Fish, Pink Fish, Yellow Fish, Blue Fish and Coral Fish.1 They were all small works of the same size completed on canvas boards whilst Preller was still on Mahé island. The work Coral Fish formed part of the collection of the prominent art critic Henry Edward Winder (1897 – 1982), who wrote for the Rand Daily Mail and the Sunday Times amongst other achievements.

1. Esmé Berman and Karel Nel (2009) Alexis Preller: Africa, the Sun and Shadows, Johannesburg: Shelf Publishing. Page 132.


Henry Edward Winder, art critic for Sunday Times and Rand Daily Mail.

Private Collection.


Gainsborough Gallery, Johannesburg, 2 to 16 August 1949, catalogue number 21.


Esmé Berman and Karel Nel (2009) Alexis Preller: Africa, the Sun and Shadows, Johannesburg: Shelf Publishing. Page 362.

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