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FOTAG Focus Articles

For a number of years the Natal Witness ran articles by FOTAG members. These articles called the FOTAG Focus discussed artworks from the collection on display.

Home > Articles > Fotag Focus > Still life, Alexis Preller

Still life

1951 - oil on canvas

Alexis Preller (1911-1975)

by Val Woodley

Still life, Alexis Preller

Born in Pretoria, Preller studied in London and Paris before serving in the S.A. Medical Corps during the Second World War. After being captured at Tobruk, he was a prisoner-of-war for two years. The horrors and suffering with which he came into contact influenced his choice of subject on his return to South Africa. He said it was "to show that even in the most gruesome sights there is some beauty if only in the colours", e.g., a bucket with amputated arms sticking out of the folds of a bloodstained sheet.

His work was influenced by Surrealism from Europe and by the African art of Swaziland and the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) where he worked for a while.

In the upstairs corner gallery of the Tatham there are two of Preller's paintings. One of them is this Still Life. This work is realistic with eight pomegranates, glowing in their yellow, orange and red hues, and two lemons, equally suffused in light. They are grouped on a slatted, wooden fruiterer's box among the folds of a pale turquoise patterned cloth. The focal point is occupied by an antique vase of classical line with a large chip in the lip. Five mysterious dark spikes painted at the left back detract somewhat from the subject. There must be a reason...

A brass plague on the base of the frame is engraved:

Jan Hofmeyer Memorial Trophy
for Public Speaking
Presented by Alan Paton

Presented by Alan Paton for an annual school competition, this is a far more aesthetically useful trophy than the silver engraved cups which one doesn't know what to do with in later years. by Val Woodley

More FOTAG Focus Articles


Johansson collectionThe Tatham Art Gallery holds an Art Collection that contains significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South-African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.


ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery hosts a range of Art Exhibitions. These include traveling and researched exhibitions as well as exhibitions initiated by the Gallery and compiled from the collection.


A selection of current and archival articles from the Tatham Art Gallery. These articles provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the Gallery and the visual arts in KwaZulu-Natal.

Art Gallery Shop

ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery shop stocks high quality works by local crafters. It is an ideal place to find unique presents and original collectables.