Appel Karel (1921 – 2006)
Dutch painter and sculptor, Karel Appel was born in 1921, in Amsterdam. Here Appel completed his artistic studies during the early 40s, attending the Rijksakademie. Those years were characterized by the influences of modern French painting, Matisse and Dubuffet in particular, but also the influences of Picasso and other great masters of the era. Soon, however, Appel will feel the need to break with the patterns of the past, trying new ways of self-expression: the Second World War, the disintegration of civilized values and the repressive atmosphere of Amsterdam under the Nazi occupation, in fact had cracked, in him and his peers, that faith in reason that had characterized the previous generations.
In this context, in 1948, with other young Dutch artists, he founded the Experimentele Groep in Amsterdam with whom he will publish the magazine “Reflex”. A few months later, along with the Danish artist Jorn, the Dutch Constant and Corneille and the Belgians Dotremont, Noiret and Alechinsky, Appel gave life to the international group CoBrA (an acronym of the hometowns of the founders: Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam). The group gave voice to a clear rejection of Western rationalism and bourgeois naturalism, proposing an informal and ironic reinterpretation of the expressionism of that time.
It was in this period that the art of Appel took on the characteristics violent and emotional forms of expression, which are based on a primitive and childlike imaginary and are mainly build on a chromatic disorder from which emerge grotesque anthropomorphic figures and animals.
In 1950, Appel moved to Paris. In the French capital the meeting with the critic Michel Tapie lead up to his separation from the experience of the CoBrA group. In 1954 he received the UNESCO prize at the Venice Biennale which consecrated him to the status of an internationally respected artist and recognized as the founder of a new era of European Expressionism. The Parisian experience was the first of a long series of journeys and transfers that lead Appel first in New York, then in Italy (Albisola, where he refined the techniques of making pottery, and later in Tuscany), and even in Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan.
Over the years, the work of Appel embraced many forms of art, first, the sculpture – in which he experimented the use of non-conventional materials – not forgetting excursus in non-figurative arts: music, theater, opera, ballet, literature.
He died in 2006, at age 85, in Zurich, the last destination of his continuous travels. Today his works are exhibited in major museums around the world, including MoMA and the Guggenheim in New York and the Tate Modern in London.