Karel Appel 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. “To paint is to destroy what preceded,” he said. “I never try to make a painting, but a chunk of life.”
Born on April 25, 1921, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, he studied 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, comprised of artists 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 Appel continued his engagement with painterly expression and was the subject of several 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.