Karel Appel (1921-2006) was an influential Dutch painter whose figurative abstractions employed expressive colors and forms. Like Jean Dubuffet, Appel found inspiration in the artwork of children and the rejection of sophisticated aesthetic tastes. “Painting, like passion, is an emotion full of truth and rings a living sound, like the roar coming from the lion’s breast,” he reflected. “To paint is to destroy what preceded. I never try to make a painting, but a chunk of life.”
Born on April 25, 1921 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, he went on to study at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten and had his first solo exhibition in 1946. Inspired by the work of Paul Klee and Joan Miró, Appel began experimenting with a rudimentary approach of describing subject matter reminiscent of folk art. In 1948, he helped form the CoBrA group (an acronym for the cities the artists were from: Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam), along with Asger Jorn, Constant, Corneille and others who were united in their rejection of rationalism and geometric abstraction. Following the dissolution of CoBrA in 1952, Appel joined Art Informel, another collection of abstract artists which included Michel Tapié and Henri Michaux.
Through the following decades the artist continued his engagement with painterly expression and was the subject of many solo exhibitions. He died on May 3, 2006 in Zürich, Switzerland. Appel’s works are presently held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands.