“Two Heads” by Karel Appel

Two Heads, 1975
Gouache on paper
18″ x 23″

Damkjar-Burton Gallery, Hamilton ON Canada
Mann Collection since 1978, St. Catharines, ON Canada

*Claus Damkjar acquired “Two Heads” from Karel Appel’s art dealer in Detroit. According to Ron Moore of Moore Gallery, Toronto, in 1977 when he was working as a salesman for Damkjar-Burton Gallery, he accompanied Claus Damkjar to Detroit and picked up this painting from Appel’s then art dealer who handled the artist and his works.

Appel was part of an artist group called CoBrA. CoBrA stands for the first letters of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. These are the cities that the artists of the CoBrA group came from.CoBrA artists liked to experiment with different types of canvases. Sometimes they painted on wood, and sometimes they included bits of cork or timber in their works.

Solo exhibitions of his work were held at the Centre national d’art contemporain, Paris, and the Stedelijk Museum (1968), and at the Kunsthalle Basel and the Palais des beaux-arts (1969). During the 1950s and 1960s he executed numerous murals for public buildings. A major Appel show opened at the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, Netherlands (1970), and a retrospective toured Canada and the United States (1972). In the 1970s and 1980s, Appel continued to work simultaneously in sculpture and painting, pushing his abstraction further with his window paintings—a series he began in 1980. Appel also gradually introduced landscape into his iconography, which would develop into a more consistent engagement in the last decade of his work.

In the 1980s, Appel also began his collaborations with American poet Allen Ginsberg, which would continue over the next ten years. In his later career, his work was the subject of numerous solo exhibitions organized by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1982); Castello di Rivoli–Museo d’arte contemporanea, Turin, Italy (1987); National Museum of Art, Osaka (1989); Stedelijk Museum (1998, 2000, and 2001); and Cobra Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Amstelveen, Netherlands (2001). Appel died on May 3, 2006, in Zurich.

About the Artist:
Karel Appel, (born April 25, 1921, Amsterdam, Netherlands—died May 3, 2006, Zürich, Switzerland), Dutch painter of turbulent, colourful, and semiabstract compositions, who was a cofounder (1948) of the COBRA group of northern European Expressionists. He was also a noted sculptor and graphic artist. Appel attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Amsterdam (1940–43), and helped found the “Reflex” group, which became known as COBRA (for Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam), in 1948. He moved to Paris in 1950 and by the 1960s had settled in New York City; he later lived in Italy and Switzerland. Partly in reaction against what they perceived as the sterile academicism of the de Stijl movement, the COBRA artists assimilated a variety of more-impulsive influences, including folk art, children’s art, and l’art brut (“raw art”) of Jean Dubuffet. They exploited the spontaneity and intensity of the contemporary American Action painting while maintaining a degree of representation. Appel’s style is characterized by thick layering of pigment, violent brushwork, and a crude, reductive figuration.