Compare my replica with Preller’s original.

Original Artwork

Icon Barbare (Adam), signed and dated ’72 inscribed with ‘Adam’ on the reverse, oil and gold leaf on panel, 60 by 50cm excluding the frame.

Marc Alexander | Alexis Preller Adam | Replica

My Replica

Adam after Alexis Preller, oil and gold leaf on board, 22.5 by 19 cm, completed in 2011.

Inspired to Reproduce

Whilst working at the Pretoria Art Museum I spent many hours in the museum’s library studying up on South African artists when I came across Alexis Preller’s 1972 retrospective exhibition catalogue. I was immediately intrigued by his work, especially his oil and gold leaf paintings. Unfortunately, this exhibition happened long before my time, so I have not seen the original in person and I had to settle for the colour reproduction in the little catalogue as a reference for my replica, which explains the slight colour difference.

Handcrafted framing

I had received as a gift from Johan Deichmann (who in 1986 wrote a dissertation on ‘the work of Alexis Preller, 1934-1928′, and a catalogue raisonné– (MA) at University of Pretoria) a box containing Preller’s oil paints which Deichmann claimed he had received from the artist’s sister. I also received a hand-carved frame made by Preller. I resized my reproduction of Adam to fit this frame and painted it using the oil paints which Preller had left behind. 

The work of Alexis Preller (1911-1975) is among the most collectable of South African artists. His standing has steadily risen in the four decades since his last exhibition in 1975, before his untimely passing that same year. The Global African Art Market Report (2016) positions Alexis Preller as the second most important and recognised modern artist from Africa in terms of turnover at auction.

The original hand-carved Preller frame – gilded and re-appropriated to fit my replica.

“I painted this reproduction of Adam to fit a hand-crafted frame made by Preller and using the oil paints which he left behind.”


Forthcoming Johannesburg sale, to be held at Strauss & Co’s Houghton offices on Monday, 11 November will focus collectors’ attention on the strong influence Paris has exerted on South African art throughout the twentieth century. 

The head of department at Stauss & Co, Dr Alastair Meredith with Alexis preller’s Icon Bare (Adam). Photo by Aneesa Adams

Dr Alastair Meredith discusses the 6 outstanding Alexis Preller works featured in Strauss & Co’s 11 November 2019 Live Auction. Including Icon Barbare (Adam), Poet (Black Price), Mapogga Wedding, Three Mapogga Women, Constellation and the Study for the Centre Panel of the All Africa Mural, Receiver of Revenue (SARS), Johannesburg.

“Paris was a beacon for countless South African artists,” says Susie Goodman, executive director at Strauss & Co. “The first South African artist to study in Paris was Robert Gwelo Goodman, in 1895. The list of local artists who followed in his footsteps is as remarkable as it is long. The top three lots in our upcoming sale are by Alexis Preller, William Kentridge, and Penny Siopis, highly acclaimed artists who each spent time in Paris early in their careers.”

Alexis Preller:

The top lot is Preller’s Icon Barbare (Adam), an oil painting quoting his powerful 1969 intaglio Adam (sold by Strauss & Co in 2016 for R6.8 million). Shown on the artist’s 1972 Pretoria Art Museum retrospective, Icon Barbare (estimate R8.5 – 10 million) depicts the biblical first man with Prelleresque flourishes.

“The Christ-like beard and hair are ambiguously transformed with green and leaf-like tendrils thus assuming a pagan quality,” notes artist and Preller expert Karel Nel. “The transmuted presence feels more like an icon of Pan, the Greek god of nature, of fertility, the mountains and wilds.”Assuredly loose in style, this oil on canvas reveals Preller’s admiration for French Fauvist painter Raoul Dufy, a lifelong friend of painter Othon Friesz.

Preller met Friesz, a teacher at Académie de la Grande Chaumière, in 1937 during his first trip to Paris. Lacking funds to study at his art school, Preller invested his energies in the “tireless examination of the works of modern artists on view in galleries,” according to his biographer Esmé Berman. During these expeditions, Preller recognised in Gauguin “a guide to the direction he himself might follow”. This influence is evident in Mapogga Wedding (R2 – 3 million), a 1952 oil depicting a bride and groom set slightly askew with Gauguinesque figures in the background. 

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