Karel Appel (1921-2006) was an important abstract painter and one of the founders of the COBRA movement.

Born in Amsterdam in 1921, the artist was influenced by avant-garde masters such as Pablo Picasso and Jean Dubuffet. Their influences and contributions to the evolution to 20th century abstraction are visible in Appel’s canvases throughout his career.

In 1948, Appel, along with fellow artists living and working in Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, founded the expressionist collective, Cobra, based on the names of the three cities. Faithfully an avant-garde movement, Cobra members were inspired by folk art, children’s creativity, and primitivism. Because of their use of bright colors and expressive brushstrokes, Cobra is often noted as a precursor to the American abstract expressionist movement.

Appel's work was generally rejected in Amsterdam which lead him to relocating to Denmark where he was embraced with much enthusiasm, eventually settling in Paris. He would befriend the leading avant-garde artists based in France; including Jean-Paul Riopelle and Sam Francis. Such relationships would inform Appel’s interest in the materiality of his medium. He applied paint directly from the tube, often thickening it with other materials, and retained the form of the brushstroke in his compositions. 

After Cobra dissolved in 1951, the fertile decades of the 1950s and 60s proved critically and financially successful for Appel. The artist was widely exhibited: he was included in the 1953 exhibit “Young European Painters” at the Guggenheim in New York, showed at the 1954 Venice Biennale (winning the UNESCO award), and in 1964, exhibited at Documenta III in Kassel.

“Personnage”, is characteristic of Appel’s work from this productive period, and depicts a quasi-anthropomorphic form, a subject matter Appel explored widely. Do you see a young girl or an exuberantly colored bird?  Regardless of interpretation, the bright colors and bold lines are evocative of his best works with their naïve, art-brut style and visceral energy. 

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Oil on canvas

Circa 1965

Signed by artist, lower right recto

30”H 23”W (canvas)

Very good condition 

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