A founding figure of CoBrA (1948–1951), which developed from the Dutch Experimental Group (1948), Karel Appel (1921–2006) began his career in the aftermath of the Second World War. Over the course of six decades, the artist experimented widely, across painting, sculpture, drawing, and stage design, distinguishing himself for his astonishing capacity to innovate; Appel never settled in a signature style, media or subject. Going beyond his classical, academic training at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam, the artist looked at folk art, as well as the uninhibited work of children and the mentally ill, whilst also drawing from jazz’s spirit of improvisation. Alternating between abstraction and figuration, Appel adopted a material-oriented approach in his practice, and promoted a genuine form of expression, an art which writer and curator Klaus Ottmann describes as ‘divorced from any political or didactic purpose’.
‘The Appel effect represents painting and sculpture at their best. It is close to the heart, animalistic, idealistic and thoroughly experimental. It playfully combines ideology with matter and form, and pushes us beyond the boundaries imposed by the human condition.’
K. Ottmann, ‘The Appel Effect’, in: Karel Appel. Retrospective, exh. cat., Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague; Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2016, p. 46
Image: Nude no. 32, 1995, © Karel Appel Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2019