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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 > Study for an African head, Alexis Preller

Study for an African head

1949 - oil on board

Alexis Preller (1911-1975)

by Val Woodley

Study for an African head, Alexis Preller

This second painting of Alexis Preller's is an appealing small study of the head of a young African girl. We see the side view of her head and neck as carved out of a light wood.

A shadow throws out the features, slender neck and wider base which has a crack in the wood, making the head stand out from the pale green background. The hair appears black and red with an ornament on top. Six dark strands of different lengths cascade down the side of the head, which is elongated, with a kidney-shaped hole through which the green background is visible. This is a feature of some of Preller's other African studies - part of the skull missing. The skin has an orange-yellow glow with three large dots in contrasting blue below the ear. Her eye is red with a blue lid.

This period of his work was influenced by the surrealism of Europe and the indigenous art of Swaziland and the belgian Congo (Zaire) where he lived for a while. Incidentally, Preller's painting of amputated limbs in a bucket, mentioned in a previous Fotag Focus article, was recently offered for sale by Sotheby's.

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

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