Photographed by Marcel Antonisse, National Archives/Anefo

Karel Appel
Birth Date: April 25, 1921
Death Date: May 3, 2006
Artist Gallery
Karel Appel is a Dutch painter who was born in Amsterdam in 1921 and was a student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Amsterdam in 1940. Fresh out of the Academy in the 40s, Appel launched a frontal attack on both academic tradition and to him, equally lifeless forms of abstraction practiced by the School of Paris. In 1948, Appel organized and exhibited with the group known as CoBrA, an acronym for the cities of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. Like the Fauves in the early years of the century, the CoBrA artists were essentially a group of rebellious young men who had little else in common, and three years later they went their separate ways. His early paintings bore a resemblance to children’s drawings, graffiti of folk art and the vivid, violent native art of New Guinea with which Appel had been familiar as a child in the Museum of Colonial Art just down the street from his Amsterdam family home. In 1947 he created his first wood relief, which he called “Questioning Children”. Civil servants who dined in the canteen complained that it upset their digestion and eventually the local art commission had the offending mural covered with wallpaper, however, in 1959 this mural was restored. The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists states “most of Appel’s work is in immensely thick layers of frenziedly molded oil paint, Abstract Expressionist in style and similar to the work of the American painter De Kooning”.