Alexander was born in 1915 in Beaufort West. His family moved to Port Elizabeth in 1927, where he began his art studies at the Art School of the Port Elizabeth Technical College. After completing his studies, he enrolled as an apprentice sign-writer, continuing to pursue his art in his free time.
Rose-Innes arrived in Cape Town in 1956, when he was 41 years of age. In the 1950s Cape Town was, without doubt, the artistic capital of South Africa. Many of the leading artists lived and worked in the Cape.
Rose-Innes had his first solo exhibition in 1958, having previously participated only in group shows in the Eastern Province. He went on to have several solo exhibitions in South Africa and Belgium, and his work was included in numerous national and international exhibitions. In 1986, he was honored by the University of Pretoria with a retrospective exhibition of his work and a medal for his contribution to the arts in South Africa.
Rose-Innes was a painter of everyday situations like women selling flowers. He portrays sensitivity towards his subject matter – always rendered in warm, subdued tones and following realistic conventions. The absence of strong colour notes, together with the use of close-up views, contributes to a sense of intimacy in his work.
Today his work forms part of most significant collections of South African masters in galleries and in numerous private collections. Alexander Rose-Innes passed away in 1996