Karel Appel was a Dutch painter, sculptor and poet born in 1921 in Amsterdam. Appel was heavily influenced by Picasso, Matisse, and most strongly by the French painter Jean Dubuffet known famously for championing work by 'outsider artists" or those that had been self taught. In his youth, Appel was a member of the Dutch Experimental Group created in 1948, as well as established the Cobra group from 1948 to 1951 with other painters from Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam. The Cobra Movement stood for creative freedom and experimentation, passion and vitality, and social engagement and the style distinguished itself through bold, expressive compositions inspired by folk and children's art. From this video clip, you get the sense of Appel's often described "barbarous" painting style, but the work I was most drawn to was his playfully layered sculptural work seen in the picture of him in his studio. The spirited little man depicted in Anti Robot from 1976 measures a whopping 20 feet high all made of metal, yet makes me smile everytime I see its picture. His work ranged from small scale paintings to large public installations, all of which demonstrate his characteristic frenetic energy and intense lurid colorings with a bit of something sinister mixed in, too. Not a fan of everything he produced, his true love for the act of painting definitely resonates with me and perhaps some day in the future I will find myself looking at one of his brushstrokes or sculptures in person. Amsterdam here I come!
Karel Appel, Anti Robot, 1976. Collection of Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France.
Mural with glass appliqué in the restaurant of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1956