One of the founders of the post-war avant-garde CoBrA movement, Karel Appel created expressionist paintings with vibrant colors, violent brushwork, and the impasto technique, which is the thick application of paint, creating a 3D feeling, favored by Van Gogh. “If I paint like a barbarian, it's because we live in a barbarous age”, said the Dutch artist of his own work. He was inspired mainly by primitive art and children’s drawings, and influenced his contemporary Jean Dubuffet, the leader of Art Brut.
Already demonstrating his talent as a child, he received a paint set from his wealthy uncle at the age of 15, which encouraged him further to dwell as an artist, despite his family’s objections. He studied art at the Rijksakademie between 1940 and 1943 and was influenced by the texture paintings and strict lines of the German Expressionists and the impasto technique of Van Gogh. In 1948 Appel joined CoBrA (from Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam), an art movement that rejected the rationalist impositions of Abstract Expressionism and embraced the emotional, childish aspect of painting. The new art of the CoBrA group was not so popular in the Netherlands at the time and his –now celebrated- work “Questioning Children” (1949) in Amsterdam City Hall caused a scandal and had to stay closed for a decade.
In 1952, he took his leave from CoBrA and joined the waves of Art Informel, along names such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Appel was a tirelessly productive artist who explored many media aside painting, such as sculpture, ceramics, mural painting, stained glass and engraving.
The art market is never short of his much-appreciated works. An oil on canvas work by him from 1951, “Two Birds and a Flower”, sold for over $1 million at Christie’s in December 2012. Another oil on canvas “The Big Chief Cobra”, exhibiting his playful child-like nature, sold for $795,992 in 2010 at Christie’s London. While the oil on canvas art works are high on the price scale, it is possible to find some gouache on paper works by Appel from various auction houses such as Sotheby’s to Ketterer Kunst with the price range of approximately $ 5,000 - $ 3,000 and lithographs for under $ 5,000.