Who Are They?

Who is Karel Appel?

Does this painting look as if a kid made it?...Well it's supposed to!

Karel Appel, ‘Hip, Hip, Hoorah!’ 1949
Karel Appel
Hip, Hip, Hoorah! 1949
Tate
© Karel Appel Foundation

This painting is called Hip, Hip Hoorah! and the Dutch artist Karel Appel painted it.

It looks as if it might have been painted by a child – and that’s the idea. Karel Appel liked children’s paintings. He liked the way that children don’t spend too long thinking about how a picture looks, or what colours they will use and just use their instincts.

He thought adults should try using their instincts more too. What do you think of the funny creatures he has painted? They are from his imagination and he thought they were the kind of strange beings you might dream about in the night. So he has painted the background black.

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.

Karel Appel, ‘Questioning Children’ 1949
Karel Appel
Questioning Children 1949
Tate
© Karel Appel Foundation

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. Like in this painting which he painted in 1949 called Questioning Children.

You can see that Appel has nailed bits of wood to an old window shutter, and then painted the wood to look like funny creatures. It is actually quite a sad painting, because when Karel Appel was making it he was thinking about all the poor children he had seen begging in Germany after the Second World War.

Karel Appel, ‘People, Birds and Sun’ 1954
Karel Appel
People, Birds and Sun 1954
Tate
© Karel Appel Foundation

In 1950 Appel left Amsterdam and moved to Paris. He began to use much thicker paint and painted even stranger creatures. Look at the difference between the painting Questioning Children he made in 1949 and this one made five years later. People, Birds and Sun 1954 looks spontaneous and he has applied the paint in a very free, and much messier, way.

Do his paintings make you laugh? If they do, that’s good. Karel Appel wanted you to laugh at his paintings. After the Second World War, he wanted to make paintings that were optimistic, and full of life and hope in order to help people see that the world could be a better place.

You might like