The acquisition of seven paintings and sculptures will be on view as part of Karel Appel: A Gesture of Color, a concise survey of the artist’s work.
WASHINGTON—The Phillips Collection’s Director Dorothy Kosinski announced today a gift of seven extraordinary works—five paintings and two sculptures—by Karel Appel (1921–2006), given by the Karel Appel Foundation in Amsterdam. Greatly enriching the museum’s growing collection of postwar European art, these remarkable works are given in conjunction with Karel Appel: A Gesture of Color (Paintings and Sculptures, 1947–2004), a concise survey of the artist’s work, on view at the Phillips June 18–September 18, 2016.
Karel Appel is perhaps the most renowned Dutch artist of the latter half of the 20th century and one of founding members of the Cobra group. This acquisition spans 50 years of the artist’s career. The five paintings, including Red Signs (1948), Woman with Flowers No. 1 (1963), and Landscape with Wheel (1980) illustrate the thickly applied radiant primary colors and fiercely
figurative content that defined Cobra, the last avant-garde movement of the 20th century founded by Appel and his contemporaries: Dutch artists Corneille and Constant Anton Nieuwenhuys (known as Constant), Belgian painter and poet Christian Dotremont, Danish artist Asger Jorn, and Belgian painter and poet Joseph Noiret. The brightly painted bronze sculpture The Elephant (1950, cast in 1989) stands more than eight feet tall and will be exhibited in front of the museum. This exceptional unit of works is the first by Appel to enter the Phillips’s permanent collection.
“I am incredibly thankful to Harriet Appel and the Karel Appel Foundation in Amsterdam for this generous gift to the Phillips,” says Director Kosinski. “These paintings and sculptures introduce the work of a major 20th-century master to the museum’s collection—resonating with the powerful color and gesture of our holdings by Bonnard, Picasso, and van Gogh while the astonishing improvisational quality of Appel’s later works finds kindred spirits in Alfonso Ossorio’s aggregations.”
“Karel Appel made his international debut in the United States in the 1950s with support from the then director of the Guggenheim Museum James Johnson Sweeney and from Martha Jackson—the artist’s New York gallerist for more than 17 years—allowing him to bridge his career between Europe and America,” says the Karel Appel Foundation. “We are proud to give this gift of works to The Phillips Collection, as it is fitting that Appel’s work should have a strong presence in the postwar European art holdings of such a world-famous institution.”
Featuring 22 paintings and sculptures, A Gesture of Color provides a fresh look at an oeuvre that goes beyond the 1950s, spanning more than 60 years. The exhibition revisits Appel’s early interest in children’s art, his stylistic experiments, and his highly personal—and sometimes almost abstract—interpretation of traditional subjects like the nude, the portrait, and the urban or rural landscape. A Gesture of Color is a part of a wider international reappraisal of Appel’s work, which includes exhibitions in The Hague, Paris, and Munich.
“Throughout a nearly six-decade career, Appel endlessly experimented with the notion of matière- couleur (matter color)—freely varying styles, methods, and materials, from his exuberant expressions of color and brushwork to his late “theatrical sculptural fantasies” that combine Italian carnival props, plastic flowers, and other found objects,” says Deputy Director for Curatorial and Academic Affairs Klaus Ottmann.