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Karel Appel (1921-2006)
Karel Appel (1921-2006)

Vogeltje - Little bird

Karel Appel (1921-2006)
Vogeltje - Little bird
signed and dated 'K. Appel '51' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 x 32.5 cm.
Galerie Nova Spectra, The Hague.
Amstelveen, Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Het kind in Cobra, 28 October 2000-28 January 2001.

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Lot Essay

This work is registered in the Archive of the Karel Appel Foundation.

Although Appel had sought a childlike view of the world in his earlier work, it was only on his return to Paris in 1950 that he was truly released from the burden of all his artistic teachings. This was in part due to the similar mindsets and aims of various contemporaries in France who had already set an anti-style precedent, not least the master of Art Brut, Jean Dubuffet. Referring to his CoBrA colleagues, Appel himself said that 'Dubuffet gave us the stimulus to break away, to conquer a new expression, a new dimension, a new space' (Appel, quoted in E. de Wilde, 'Edy de Wilde in conversation with Karel Appel', pp.12-15, Appel,, Osaka, 1989, p. 12). However the aims of Dubuffet were very different from those of Appel; Dubuffet's anti-cultural art was based more on psychotic art than that of children, although he admired both as they were both untrained, untainted by teaching, styles and disciplines. This raw element appealed to Appel as well, but his interest in children arts subject matter and their art as a medium was deliberate and politicized. Appel sought to capture not only the fresh and subjective vision of the child in his work, but also to tap into a certain innocence that was, to Appel, a necessary balm in a world so drastically scarred by the turmoil of the Second World War.

In Vogeltje, 1951, we find forms full of innocence and vitality combined with a palette of colours of an extraordinary intensity. In this respect, this work is a remarkable condensation of the research during the COBRA period before he moved to Paris and of this instinctive and spontaneous work on colour which also characterize the work of Appel. This childlike spontaneity extends to his artistic style. The creation of Vogeltje was obviously frantic and spontaneous, not bound by the restrictions of academic aesthetic convention. In 1951 many large scale works by Appel show an artist who unleashes himself, the activity of painting becomes almost ferocious. Appel said of his painting style: 'Sometimes my work looks very childish or child-like, schizophrenic or stupid, but that was a good thing for me, because for me the material is the paint itself. In a mass of paint, I find my imagination and go to paint it," (K. Appel quoted from an interview with Alan Hanlon, New York, 1972). Although the present lot is painted with similar intensity, the small scale gives it another character. The little bird becomes almost a cuddly toy as well as a Cry for Freedom. It shows Appel's ability not only to work as an Angry Young Man, but also as a tender artist, not only capturing the excitement of Post-War Europe, but also the sensitivity and tenderness of this era.

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