(1921 – 2006), Netherlands

Karel Appel Biography

Throughout a nearly six-decade career, Appel pushed his studio practice to extremes, often shifting between abstraction and figuration, never content to settle on one signature style, media, or body of work. His earliest works, created during the time he co-founded the COBRA group with Asger Jorn, Christian Dotremont, and Constant, make evident his interest in the uninhibited artistic experience. As a member of the Dutch Experimental Group and later Art Informel, Appel drew his earliest and possibly greatest inspiration from folk art, children's drawings, and the works of the mentally disturbed. This is perhaps most clear in The Psychopathological Notebook, a collection of free-form drawings on pages of catalogue text from the International Exhibition on Psychopathological Art, 1950 at the Saint-Anne Hospital for the mentally ill in Paris. Visiting this exhibition on multiple occasions proved impactful for Appel and would inform much of his work in the following years.

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At the suggestion of French critic Michel Tapié, Appel met gallerist Martha Jackson, who would give the artist his first one-person show in New York City in 1954 and continue to show his work for the next twenty years. During his time in New York in the late 1950s, Appel became friendly with Sam Francis, Jackson Pollock, fellow-Dutchman Willem DeKooning, Franz Kline, and other members of the Abstract Expressionist group, as well as Jazz luminaries Dizzie Gillespie, Miles Davis, Count Basie, and Sarah Vaughan. This circle of cultural producers was sympathetic to Appel's interest in a self-conscious investigation of the psychology of painting and would influence the artist's shift from realism to an emotionally charged, robustly active, and spontaneous abstract painting style. Having already begun with his peers in COBRA to explore an anticlassical stance in favor of what critic Hal Foster has termed the 'creaturely' — a 'pagan vernacular of the North in opposition to the official Christianity of the South' — Appel's time in New York allowed him to propel towards a de-aestheticised, boundless expressivity.

Appel spent much of the following half-century moving between New York and Europe. During his lifetime, the artist would participate in numerous one-person traveling exhibitions around the world and would represent the Netherlands in the 27th International Art Exhibition in the Venice Biennale.

Text courtesy Blum & Poe.

Karel Appel, Bataille d'animaux (1958). Oil on canvas. 116 x 146 cm. Courtesy Galerie Max Hetzler. 

Karel Appel Featured Artworks

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Eternal Space of Being 12 by Karel Appel contemporary artwork painting
Karel Appel Eternal Space of Being 12, 1990 Oil and acrylic on canvas
190.5 x 228.5 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris Contact Gallery
Composition by Karel Appel contemporary artwork painting
Karel Appel Composition, c. 1960 Acrylic on canvas
46.4 x 55.2 cm
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Hollis Taggart
Out of Nature by Karel Appel contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Karel Appel Out of Nature, 1995 Oil on canvas
153 x 121.9 x 4.4 cm
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Blum & Poe
Zittend naakt by Karel Appel contemporary artwork painting
Karel Appel Zittend naakt, 2000 Oil on canvas
260 x 200 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Nude (Nude Series) by Karel Appel contemporary artwork painting
Karel Appel Nude (Nude Series), 1962 Oil on canvas
160 x 130 cm
Almine Rech Contact Gallery
Out of Nature by Karel Appel contemporary artwork painting
Karel Appel Out of Nature, 1996 Oil on canvas
60 x 48 x 1.75 inches
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
Out of Nature by Karel Appel contemporary artwork painting
Karel Appel Out of Nature, 1995 Oil on canvas
60 x 48 x 1.75 inches
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Blum & Poe
Out of Nature by Karel Appel contemporary artwork painting
Karel Appel Out of Nature, 1996 Oil on canvas
60 x 48 x 1.75 inches
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery

Karel Appel Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Karel Appel Represented By

Almine Rech contemporary art gallery in Brussels, Belgium Almine Rech Aspen, Brussels, London, New York, Paris, Shanghai
Blum & Poe contemporary art gallery in Tokyo, Japan Blum & Poe Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo
Galerie Max Hetzler contemporary art gallery in Bleibtreustraße 45, Berlin, Germany Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin, London, Paris

Karel Appel In Ocula Magazine

Karel Appel In Related Press

How the Benesse Art Site Naoshima Revitalized a Cluster of Japanese Islands Related Press How the Benesse Art Site Naoshima Revitalized a Cluster of Japanese Islands 23 February 2017, Architectural Digest

Yayoi Kusama's polka-dotted pumpkin overlooking the ocean, James Turrell's Open Sky installation, and an entire art space by Walter De Maria are just a few of the groundbreaking works on display at

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A university with a playground attached: Frances Morris's vision for Tate Modern Related Press A university with a playground attached: Frances Morris's vision for Tate Modern 19 June 2016, Apollo Magazine

How does it feel to be the new director of Tate Modern just as the new building is about to open? It feels good, of course it feels good, as I have been very much part of Tate for a long time. But everything has always been a little bit of a push; it is a complicated organisation, and it’s taken a lot of advocacy internally, to create...

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The Continuing Triumph of Karel Appel Related Press The Continuing Triumph of Karel Appel 18 January 2016, Huffington Post

The celebration of Karel Appel continues. Having conquered Amsterdam, he is now honored in Paris, with a retrospective of his works on paper at the French national museum of modern art, at the Pompidou Center. It is appropriate to see Appel's art in Paris. With Amsterdam and New York, it was one of the three cities where Appel spent the greater...

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Drawing on Humanity’s Animal Nature Related Press Drawing on Humanity’s Animal Nature 7 January 2016, Hyperallergic

PARIS — Karel Appel would start drawing by shimmering bright muck or line around until it eventually formed into semi-abstract philosophical lava, or monkey shit, or the poetry of release. That shimm

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