Karel Appel (1921) Dutch painter

Influential Dutch painter and sculptor Karel Appel was one of the founders of the COBRA movement, an abbreviation of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam to express its international characteristics. Although the movement existed for just three years (from 1948 to 1951), Appel was influenced heavily by his Danish fellow artists.

His expressive style is comparable to the American action painting. The painter tried to communicate his emotions directly through the paint on the canvas. Making use of uniform, basic and aggressive colours, he mainly painted flat and childish shapes in thick, violent strokes. "My paint tube," Appel once stated, "is like a rocket which describes its own space. Painting is like the roar coming from the lion's breast." As other COBRA painters, he found inspiration in children’s drawings and primitive art as a reaction towards the popular, intellectual and very elitist art world of his time.

Actually the Amsterdam born artist never meant to become a standard artist. His most famous words are “Ik rotzooi maar wat aan”, roughly translated as “I just mess around”. He moved to Paris with his friend and fellow painter Corneille after the Dutch artist world and press became hostile towards their painting methods. It was partly their own fault, as they were invited by art societies but laughed at them loudly while saying “You’re fossils”.

His new experimentalism and his flight to France caused that he was relatively unknown in the Netherlands in the early years of his career. This all changed in 1962 when filmmaker Jan Vrijman produced a movie about Appel’s life. Through a hole in a painting he filmed Appel literally throwing paint on the canvas. This method, added to his famous words, caused a considerable scandal in the Netherlands, although in reality Appel actually struggled heavily with using paint and canvas to express his feelings. Despite his later more subtle paintings, many people consider Appel a paint thrower.

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