Karel Appel

Across a nearly six-decade career, Karel Appel established a distinct aesthetic that made him one of the most influential Dutch artists in the latter half of the twentieth century. Born in 1921 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, he studied at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten. Appel left the Netherlands in the 1950's, travelled extensively and lived and worked in New York and Europe. He passed away in 2006 in Zürich, Switzerland. 


A founding figure of CoBrA in 1948, a movement that rejected rationalism and geometric abstraction, Appel experimented widely, across painting, sculpture, drawing, and stage design, distinguishing himself for his astonishing capacity to innovate. He never settled in a signature style, media or subject. Going beyond his classical, academic training, Appel 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.  Oscillating between realism and an emotionally charged, robustly active, and spontaneous abstraction, Appel adopted a material-oriented approach in his practice, and promoted a genuine form of expression.


During his lifetime, Appel participated in numerous one-person traveling exhibitions around the world and represented the Netherlands in the 27th International Art Exhibition in the Venice Biennale. His work is represented in public collections internationally, including the Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada; Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, Arles, France; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Liège, Belgium; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico; Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand, São Paulo, Brazil; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada; National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway; The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Tate Modern, London, UK; and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israel; and of course in all major Dutch museums, in particular the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague.

Photo: Evers, Joost / Anefo, National Archives of the Netherlands / Fotocollectie Anefo