Christiaan Karel Appel (1921-2006) was a Dutch painter, sculptor, and poet. He discovered the art of painting at the age of fourteen and studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in the 1940s. Appel was a founder of the avant-garde movement COBRA in 1948.
Appel was born in his parent’s house at Dapperstraat 7 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. One of four sons, his childhood nickname was ‘Kik’. His father, Jan Appel, had a barber shop on the ground floor. His mother, born Johanna Chevalier, was a descendant of French Huguenots.
Appel made his first painting—a still life of a fruit basket—at age 14. On his fifteenth birthday, his uncle Karel Chevalier gave him a paint set and an easel. Chevalier was an enthusiast and amateur painter himself and gave Appel private lessons in painting. At 19 years old, Appel enrolled in the Rijks-Academie in Amsterdam, where he studied from 1940 to 1943.
Appel had his first show in the city of Groningen in 1946. He also participated in the Jonge Schilders exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam. While Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Jean Dubuffet influenced Appel’s style he took inspiration from them and channeled his energy to develop his own style and vocabulary of painting.
Appel’s prowess in his craft cascaded into graphic works and illustrations, sculptures, ceramic works and large decorations of buildings and rooms. Appel’s colors and childish lines reflect his sense of wonder; he seduced his viewers by reminding them of their own childhood fantasies.
Appel was known for his indefatigable work pace; his creative stamina seemed limitless. The worlds he created were the result of a his ceaseless exploration of form, color, and material. The images which he conjured in this way were highly particular and palpable.