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Karel Appel (The Netherlands 1921-2006)

Abstract composition

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary 9 – 10 November 2022

Lot 522 Karel Appel (The Netherlands 1921-2006). Abstract composition. Signed Appel lower right. Oil on canvas, 92 x 73 cm.

Executed in 1985.
The authenticity of this lot has kindly been confirmed by Jan Nieuwenhuizen Segaar. It is registered in his archive with no. 220930.


200.000 – 300.000 SEK
€ 18.000 – 27.000

In context

Karel Appel And his colourful abstract composition from 1985

The 8th of November 1948 marks a central point within the Western art movement. At Café Notre Dame in Paris a group of young artists and intellectuals formed the beginning of a renewal of the European art scene. The COBRA group was short-lived but influenced many coming generations of artists. Through art, the group sought to spark the rebirth of the human spirit and a primitive sense of vitality and creative energy. Their stance was shaped by the aftermath of the war and what they saw as the stagnation of art. The group tried to break away from the present emphasis on form and intellect, and instead encouraged a spontaneous way of painting. They drew inspiration from the naive drawings made by children and the art of primitive cultures as well as contemporary art movements such as Art brut and artists like Jean Dubuffet, Paul Klee and Joan Miró. The core value that they sought was the sense of innocence and naivety, as a form of aesthetic uncorrupted by the Western tradition. By this they sought to find an expression of hope and optimism in contrast to the continents dark past.

Karel Appel was to become the embodiment of these ideas. His paintings exude imagination and spontaneity, expressed by free, often wild brushstrokes and a use of thick layers of a vibrant array of colour. Appel saw the process of painting as more important than the finished work itself, and became known for having a spontaneous and intuitive approach to his motifs. In his early years he was highly influenced by the cubist works of Pablo Picasso. Together with his friend and artist Corneille, Appel travelled to Liège in the mid 1940s and came across the works of Jean Dubuffet, which were influenced by children and mentally ill. Appel was the co-founder of Experimentele Groep together with artists Anton Rooskens, Theo Wolvecamp, Jan Nieuwenhuijs and Eugène Brands. These artists later came in contact with artists who represented the same ideas in Denmark and Belgium, eventually forming the COBRA group. 

In 1957, Karel Appel moved to New York and continued his search for new inspiration. The jazz musicians played an important role in his painting as he found similar characteristics within the COBRA movement. From now on, he applied thick layers of paint, sometimes directly from the tube and modelled it with his hands. The abstract composition in the present sale is a colourful work embracing Appel’s free spirit. Contrasting colours in red, black, green and blue placed in thick paint layers form this energetic composition, highlighting the inner core of the COBRA movement. With its vivid colours and swirling paint it shows the very essence of Appel’s fascinating artistry.

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