A founding member of the CoBrA movement in Amsterdam, in 1950 Appel moved to Paris, where he saw the work of Jean Dubuffet, whose art brut style had a formative influence on him. Deeply rooted in art that had been marginalized - of the insane, of children - art brut eschewed Modernist idealism in favour of a more primitive and expressive style. The thick application of paint, bold colours and expressive brushstrokes of Deux têtes de bêtes, illustrates the sense of childlike naïveté that developed from Appel's Paris years, a style that would come to dominate his work for the remainder of his career.
"Appel presents a form of painting full of emotion, immediacy and strength, which is tied to the archetypical, the original and the human image. The rough, simplified figuration fully reflects primitive art and children's drawings. Whenever in the future more dissolved, thus more abstract images, develop, then still figuration forms a central issue in Appel's world of images" (F. Steininger, Karel Appel, Bratislava, 2005, p. 39). Throughout his career, and particularly in the early, most sought-after work, his oeuvre is dominated by figures and animals, particularly cats and birds. The present painting dates from 1954, an important year for his international breakthrough. He was awarded the Unesco Prize at the 27th Biennale in Venice and he had expositions at Studio Paul Fachetti in Paris and Martha Jackson Gallery in New York.
This work is registered in the Archives of the Karel Appel Foundation.