Karel Appel, Untitled, 1977
Karel Appel (1921-2006) was a major Dutch artist of the post-war period. Appel produced paintings, sculpture, and drawings, as well as poetry. Born in Amsterdam, he produced his first painting at fourteen. His uncle, an amateur painter himself, gave young Karel and easel and paint set, as well as some introductory lessons. Appel studied at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam during the German occupation and had his first solo show in 1946. In 1948 he cofounded the avant-garde group CoBrA (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam). The group, and Appel in particular, often used a stylized version of children's drawings to explore (in part) dynamics of purity and corruption. Appel's controversial mural Questioning Children (1949) prompted him to move to Paris where he developed his international reputation. Some of his paintings have political content, such as Hiroshima Child (1958), but most retain some amount of figuration, whether a young girl, a crocodile, or a mountain landscape. Appel did, however, work with pure abstraction in his drawings. This untitled piece from 1977 is one of Appel's more abstract paintings; it is perhaps possible to make out some figures, but nothing is definite, especially without a title. The painting is about its swirls of color and thick texture. Appel was very engaged with the material quality of his paint, "slapping" it on the canvas with brush, palette knife, or by hand, and molding it to its desired shape and texture. In this work we see the intermingling of the blue and purple, sometimes making it hard to see where one transitions into the other. Yellow courses underneath while the black dances on top of the action, holding the composition together.