Artist

Karel Appel

Karel Appel (1921–2006)
Composition no. 6, 1962
oil on canvas
18 x 15 in. (46 x 33 cm)
signed lower right: Appel

Chronology

1921

Karel Appel is born April 25 in Amsterdam.
 

1935

Appel begins painting. The next year he receives a paint set and easel from his uncle who is also an artist.
 

1942-44

Studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam during the worst years of the war.

 

1946

Visits Denmark where he becomes acquainted with the group of young painters with whom he will form Cobra. His first exhibition is held in Groningen.

 

1947

Begins incorporating wood and found objects into his work and introduces narrative elements.

 

1948

Appel and other young Dutch artists found the Dutch Experimental group in Amsterdam. The International Cobra group is founded in Paris and eventually merges with the Dutch Experimental group. Appel begins creating “rubbish objects” including Questioning Children.

 

1949

Cobra begins publishing a periodical. Appel’s mural for the Amsterdam City Hall generates public outcry and the work remains covered by wallpaper for the next decade.

 

1950

Michael Ragon becomes the voice of Cobra. Appel moves to Paris where he meets Hugo Claus, a Flemish poet, novelist, and playwright with whom he develops a close friendship.

 

1951

Receives a commission to paint the foyer of the auditorium of the Stedelijik Museum in Amsterdam.

 

1952

Breaks with Cobra and joins Art Informel, a group of artists which includes Henri Michaux, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Sam Francis.

 

1953

Martha Jackson buys several works from Appel marking the beginning of a relationship that would last for over twenty years. While in Italy, Appel begins making ceramics based on the human head.

 

1954

A solo exhibition of his work is held at the Studio Paul Facchetti, Paris. His first exhibition in the United States is held at the Martha Jackson Gallery, New York. Appel receives the UNESCO prize at the Venice Biennale.

 

1955

Jean Larcade becomes his dealer in Paris.

 

1956

Receives another commission from the Stedelijik Museum and begins working with stained glass.

 

1957

Travels to the United States and Mexico. While in America, he paints a series of portraits of jazz musicians including Dizzie Gillespie and Sarah Vaughn.

 

1958

Becomes an internationally recognized artist.

 

1960

Produces a series of sculptures from the roots of olive trees.

 

1961

Becomes the subject of a documentary film entitled The Reality of Karel Appel.

 

1963

Collaborates with Hugo Claus on Love Song. Begins experimenting with mixed media, inserting real objects into his paintings.

 

 

 

1964

Purchases and renovates the Chateau of Molesmes.

 

1965

Begins making polychrome reliefs and free-standing plywood figures.

 

1969-71

Produces “psychological relief-portraits” made from assemblages of wood on canvas.

 

1971

Makes his first polychrome aluminum sculptures. Moves back to Paris. Travels extensively in Mexico, South America, Japan and Southeast Asia.

 

1974

Begins using plastic foam and polyeurethane which he paints and sculpts to look like wood. Collaborates with Pierre Alechinsky and Hugo Claus on the production of Two Brush Paintings, a book of works on paper and poems.

 

1976-78

Produces the Appel Circus cycle, a series of juxtaposed etchings and wooden carvings.

 

1977

Moves to the south of France.

 

1980

Begins a series of window paintings, his most abstract works up to this point.

 

1982

Collaborates with Allen Ginsberg and produces a series of paintings for On the Road: the Jack Keruoac Exhibit.

 

1985

Begins his Nude series.

 

1987

Receives a commission from the Paris Opera to design a ballet with choreographer Min Tanaka. The finished piece entitled, Can We Dance a Landscape? receives mixed reviews.

 

1988

Travels to China.

 

1991

Begins working in a new style which blends architecture, painting, and sculpture.

 

1994

Returns to the theme of the nude.

 

1995

Becomes the subject of a second documentary. A museum dedicated to the works of Cobra artists opens in Amstelveen.

 

2000

Explores light as a subject in the series The Will to Power of the Planets.

 

2001

In honor of Appel’s eightieth birthday, the Stedelijik, the Cobra Museum, and the Haags Gemeentemuseum all hold exhibitions of his work.

 

2002

A number of his works go missing while being transported to the Karel Appel Foundation. They will not be found until a decade later.

 

2005

Produces his last series of nudes which are exhibited at the Gemeenstemusem Den Haag.

 

2006

On May 3, Appel dies at his home in Zurich at the age of eighty-five.