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


Karel Appel (1921-2006)
signed and dated 'K. Appel '53' (upper right); signed and dated again 'K. APPEL 1953' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
37¾ x 28¼ in. (95.9 x 71.1 cm.)
Painted in 1953
Galerie Paul Facchetti, Paris.
Martha Jackson, New York.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 30 June 1988, lot 617.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.
A. Frankenstein, Karel Appel, New York, 1980, p. 48 (illustrated in color).
M. Ragon, Karel Appel, The Early Years 1937-1957, Paris, 1988, p. 435, no. 738 (illustrated in color).
Montreal, Musée d'Art Contemporain; Stratford, Rothmans Art Gallery of Ontario; Victoria, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria; Edmonton Art Gallery; Winnipeg Art Gallery; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario; Halifax, Dalhousie University Art Gallery; Art Gallery of Hamilton and London Public Library and Art Museum, Appel's Appels, 1972-73, no. 21 (illustrated in color).
New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, Karel Appel: The Early Fifties$i, September-October 1973, n.p. (illustrated).

Lot Essay

Karel Appel's Head is a pivotal work from 1953, an important year in the artist's career. The painting was purchased by Paul Facchetti in Paris and was later owned by Martha Jackson, the American gallerist. Jackson (fig. 1) would introduce Appel to the American art world the following year, in 1954, with his first solo exhibition in her New York Gallery. This show ultimately opened the door for Appel's international recognition and initiated the artist's relationship with Jackson that continued for more than twenty years.

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 favor of a more primitive and expressive style. The thick application of paint, bold colors and expressive brushstrokes of Head, 1953, 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).

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