Painter and sculptor Karel Appel (Dutch, 1921–2006) co-founded the art group CoBrA, and is known for his vibrant, forceful abstracted works, which helped introduce a new era of expressive painting in Europe. Appel was born in Amsterdam and attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1940s. He was drawn to the animated, primitive style of Jean Dubuffet in the years following the repressive, isolated environment of WWII in Amsterdam. In 1948 he founded CoBrA—an acronym for the cities the artists were from: Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam—with fellow artists Asger Jorn, Guillaume Corneille, and Pierre Alechinsky, advocating expressive and spontaneous painting techniques drawing on Folk Art and primitive imagery.

Appel’s work received both broad critical acclaim and unfavorable criticisms; a mural he painted on commission for the Amsterdam City Hall featured depictions of cynically smiling children so disturbing to workers that the mural was ordered to be covered up. In 1950 he moved to Paris, where he continued to gain critical recognition for his ironic imagery, bold brushstrokes, and energetic color. He received the UNESCO prize at the Venice Biennale in 1954, and the first prize at a Guggenheim International exhibition in 1960.

In later years Appel also worked with sculpture, assemblage, poetry, lithography, and set design. He held solo exhibitions around the world, in cities including New York, London, Paris, Milan, and Tokyo. Appel died at his home in Zürich in 2006, at 85 years old.


Born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Founds the Cobra Group
Moved to Paris, France
Received the UNESCO Prize at the Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy
Became an internationally recognized artist
Died in Zürich, Switzerland


Modern Print Masters Stock - The Watermill, Aberfeldy, Perthshire (Scotland)
Chronicles Of Dopobomba - Museo d`Arte Contemporanea Lissone, Lissone
Artistic Relationships: Partners, Mentors, Lovers - Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte, NC
Appassionata. Die Sammlung Selinka Im Dialog - Kunstmuseum Ravensburg, Ravensburg
Karel Appel - Robinsons Art Gallery, Knokke-Zoute
Karel Appel – I don’t paint, I hit! - Museum Jorn (former Silkeborg Art Museum), Silkeborg
Karel Appel - Gallery LL, Amsterdam
The Art of Summer: Contemporary & Modern Works - Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles, CA
The Biennial of Painting: The Image of Man - MDD - Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle
Cobra - 1000 Days of Free Art - SSM - Sakip Sabanci Müzesi, Istanbul
Karel Appel: The Expression of Color - Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, MI
Europe at Mid-Century: Dubuffet, Giacometti, Picasso - MFA - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, MA
Painterly Abstraction, 1949-1969: Selections from the Guggenheim Collections - Museo Guggenheim de Arte Moderno y Contemporáneo, Bilbao
Focus: Abstraktion - Werke Aus Der Sammlung Essl - ESSL MUSEUM - KUNST DER GEGENWART, Klosterneuburg
Painting on the Sea, The Sea as Pretext, Works from the IVAM Collection, Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Valencia, Spain
Goya and the Modern World, Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy
Le grand geste! International Painting from Pollock to Schumacher - Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism, Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, Germany
Karel Appel. Peintures 2000-2001, Galerie Lelong, Paris, France (solo)
Karel Appel. The Sixties, Galerie Ulysses, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Karel Appel: Opere 1990-2002, Galleria Arte 92, Milan, Italy (solo)
Karel Appel. Jazz 1958-1962, Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, The Netherlands (solo)
Modern Prints - Klassische Moderne bis Pop Art, Galerie Proarta, Zurich, Switzerland
Karel Appel. Monumentale Aktzeichnungen, Albertina, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Karel Appel. Works on Paper 1949 – 2005, Galerie Ulysses, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Karel Appel. Last Paintings, Galerie Ulysses, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Pierre Alechinsky & Karel Appel. Peinture à quatre mains, Galerie Lelong, Zurich, Switzerland
Karel Appel: Opere 1991 – 2002, Galleria Arte 92, Milan, Italy (solo)
Karel Appel Retrospective, Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum, Bratislava, Slovakia (solo)
Karel Appel. Paintings and Sculptures, Galerie Ulysses, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Karel Appel. Recent works, Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Netherlands (solo)
Karel Appel. Onderweg. Reis van Rudi Fuchs langs de kunst der Lage Landen, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium (solo)
Karel Appel. New Works on Paper, JG Contemporary, New York, NY (solo)
Karel Appel. The Cobra Years, Galerie Ulysses, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Karel Appel: oeuvres sur papier 1999-2002, Galerie Lelong, Paris, France (solo)
Japanese Landscapes, Galerie Lelong, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)
Mutation in Motion, , Galerie Ulysses, Vienna, Austria (solo)br>Karel Appel, Kunstforum Wien, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Karel Appel, Pastorale Chiaroscuro, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (solo)
Recente sculpturen & gedichten, S.M.A.K., Gent, Belgium (solo)
The Will to Power of the Planets Zomeropstelling 2000, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (solo)
Toys from the Attic, Bergen Museum of Art, Norway (solo)
Psychopathological Art, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (solo)
Karel Appel. Gemälde, Gouachen, Zeichnungen 1950-1965, BAWAG Fondation, Vienna, Austria (solo)
A Retrospective by Karel Appel, The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea (solo)
Singing Donkeys, New Sculptures by Karel Appel, Paleis Lange Voorhout, The Hague, The Netherlands (solo)
Karel Appel, Ik wou dat Ik een Vogel was (Karel Appel, If I Were a Bird), Haags Gemeente Museum, The Hague, The Netherlands (solo)
Karel Appel, National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan (solo)
Karel Appel. Dipinti, Sculpture e Collages, Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (solo)
Recent Paintings and Sculptures: Clouds, Windmills, Nudes and Other Mythologies, Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, FL (solo)
Karel Appel, Oeuvres Recentes, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium (solo)
The New Work of Karel Appel, Paintings 1979-1981, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands (solo)
Karel Appel Retrospective, Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, Venezuela (solo)
Karel Appel, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico (solo)
Karel Appel Retrospective, Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, FL (solo)
Appel's Appels, Musée d'Art Contemporain, Montreal, Quebec (solo)
Karel Appel, Reliefs 1966-68, Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Paris, France (solo)
Karel Appel. Paintings 1947-65, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (solo)
Appel, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (solo)
Karel Appel: Sculptures, 1962, Galerie Rive Droite, Paris, France (solo)
Karel Appel, West Coast Exhibiton, San Francisco Art Museum, San Francisco, CA (solo)
Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
Paintings Karel Appel, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, UK (solo)
Karel Appel, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium (solo)

Public Collections

Tate Modern, London, UK
Scottish National Galerie of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
an Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv, Israël
National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan
Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan
Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Mexico
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Cobra Museum, Amstelveen, The Netherlands
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
Mamac - Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Liege, Belgium
Museo de Arte Contemporânea da Universidade de São Paolo, São Paolo, Brazil
The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Les Abattoires - Centre d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Toulouse, France
Musée National d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporian, Nice, France
Museum Ludwig, Köln, Germany
Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, Germany
National Gallery of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
Museum Moderner Kunst, Wien, Austria
Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
S.M.A.K., Gent, Belgium


Karel Appel, Pastorale Chiaroscuro - Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Rotterdam, 2001
Donald Kuspit, Karel Appel Sculpture : A Catalogue raisonné - Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1994
Michel Ragon, Karel Appel : Peinture 1937 – 1957 - Galilée, Paris, 1988