Karel Appel: The Crying Crocodile Tries to Catch the Sun

Karel Appel: The Crying Crocodile Tries to Catch the Sun

Guggenheim Museum (www.guggenheim.org)

© 2005 Karel Appel Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York/Beeldrecht, Amsterdam

Karel Appel: Frog with umbrella

Karel Appel: Frog with umbrella


The dynamic pictorial panorama of the second half of the 20th century had a lot of protagonists, but very few of them reached as much importance as Karel Appel

As many others artists of his generation, Appel suffered the tragedy of the World War II, which had a considerable influence -in a conscious or unconscious way- in all his artistic oeuvre. A native from Amsterdam, Appel was forced to leave the city to avoid being arrested by the occupying Nazi forces in 1944. Shortly afterwards, he returned to the Dutch capital to take part in an exhibition of young artists in the Stedelijk Museum.


"The nude brushstroke, that's what I search" , Appel said early in his career. With his emaciated figures and bright -often disturbing- colours, Appel´s paintings were not well accepted by most critics, still used to the geometric abstraction of their fellow countryman Pietr Mondrian.

Nevertheless, Appel's interest and eagerness to recover the primitivism as the main engine of the artistic expression were shared by many of his young contemporaries, and in 1948, when he was only 27 years old, Appel took part as a founder member in an artistic movement that played a highly important role in the artistic evolution in Europe in the second half of the 20th Century: The Cobra Group.


Founded in 1948 as an answer to geometric abstraction, the Cobra Group (named with the first letters of the native cities of its founder members - Copenhagen , Brussels and Amsterdam- ) had such famous members as PIERRE ALECHINSKY (1927), AGER JORN (1914-1973), CORNEILLE (Cornelis van Beverloo, 1922) or Appel himself. Their art were characterized by spontaneous, vitalistic and impulsive brushstrokes, demanding a complete artistic freedom. Karel Appel declared that "I paint like a barbarian in a barbarous age" . The huge mural created in 1949 in the Amsterdam City Hall caused an enormous controversy and was covered up for nearly a decade.

In the early 50s, Appel reached the zenith of his art, with his devious pictures of human beings and animals of vivid colours, violent foreshortenings and no evidence of perspective.


Nevertheless, in the following years Appel led his painting into the figuration or even the abstraction. In the late sixties, he dealt with artistic fields such as sculpture or illustration. However, he never abandoned the human figure as a reference in his creations.

Karel Appel died on May 3rd, 2006, and he was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, along with other famous artists such as Oscar Wilde, Theodore Gericault or Jim Morrison.

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