Jaski Art Gallery

Karel Appel
(Amsterdam, 1921 - Zurich, 2006)

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Karel Appel

Karel Appel met Corneille in the years 1940-1943 during his education at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. In 1946 he travelled with him to Liège, where the pair held a joint exhibition in 1947. He also made a visit to Paris with Corneille. On his return he got to know Constant, and in 1948 the three of them exhibited in Amsterdam.

Appel, Corneille and Constant together with Anton Rooskens, Theo Wolvecamp and Jan Nieuwenhuys (Constant’s brother) formed the Dutch Experimental Group on 16 July 1948. Appel was a co-founder of CoBrA on 8 November 1948, and he is probably the best known member of the movement in the Netherlands.

He became famous above all for his credo “I just mess around at it.” His work created a great deal of uproar in the Dutch art world of the 1940s and 1950s. Indeed, his 1949 mural “Questioning children” in the cafeteria of Amsterdam Town Hall created quite a scandal. At the insistence of the indignant civil servants, the City Council had this “Appel of discord” covered up, and the work of art disappeared under wallpaper for ten years.

Appel always favoured the call to direct expression in paint, rather than the marxist analysis of Western civilisation put forward by Constant; he never paid much attention to the theoretical pamphlets of Constant and Dotremont. During the CoBrA years he painted innocent child creatures and fabulous beasts in bright colours, simple forms and bold lines.

After the break-up of CoBrA he managed to maintain the emotional approach to his subject. In the course of the 1950s he developed a heavier painting style, with line and areas of colour melting together into a moving mass of paint. In addition to painting the versatile Appel made assemblages and sculptures, and also wrote poetry. Until his death, on May 3, 2006, in Zurich, Karel Appel stayed the hard working, almost obsessed painter he always was.