As a young expressionist, Karel Appel’s beginnings in the art world served as a catalyst in his career. The pivotal moment in his first years as an artist came in 1947 when Appel lived in an attic in the Oudezijds area of Amsterdam. Due to a daily job, he was forced to work at night. The artist had no gas or electricity and was forced to paint in the dark. Despite the fact that Appel could rarely see the colors of the pigments, he developed as many as fifty paintings a night. He finished a work by lighting a candle, turning the painting upside down (because Appel thought no painting had a top or bottom) and splattering the center with bright pigment. This technique served as the basis of Appel’s painting – spontaneous, intuitive and powerful.
In July of 1948, the first meeting of the Dutch Experimental group took place. The group hoped to unite with similar artists outside of Holland. They promoted the idea of an international Avant-Garde, one which sought to liberate itself of all fixed academic theory and aestheticism. The small art circle quickly expanded with representatives in Copehagen, Brussels, and its originating city, Amsterdam. The movement named itself CoBrA after the first letters of the member’s home cities. The focus of the movement was semi-abstract painting that relied on bright, primary coloration and strong, almost violent, brush strokes.
Appel rapidly detached himself from the CoBrA group in 1952. CoBrA was a significant part of Appel’s career and helped him become what he is today: the most important Dutch artist of the 20th century.
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