Karel Appel

Hiroshima Child

Appel Hiroshima Child Hara Museum Of Contemporary Art 1500
  • Karel Appel
  • Hiroshima Child
  • 1958
  • oil on canvas
  • 162 x 130 cm
  • Hara Museum of Contemporary Art © K. Appel Foundation/ VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

Hiroshima Child (1958), by contrast, is defined by the energy and intensity with which Appel applied the paint. The thick impasto of black, white, and red suggests human limbs and dramatic postures: This is an apocalyptic scene which, according to the title, refers to the first of two nuclear strikes on 
Japan by the United States on August 6, 1945, near the end of World War II. Patches of yellow and white represent the deadly impact and engulf the figures.
One is tossed into the air, barely able to hold onto the child in her arms.

In both works, the free-form lines and shapes evoke both the artist’s aggressive handling of materials and a spirit of childlike innocence, an approach
that liberated him from academic restrictions.

Petronela Soltész

Biography of Karel Appel

  • Born 1921 in Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Died 2006 in Zurich, Switzerland
Karel Appel studied at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (State Academy of Fine Arts) in Amsterdam during the early 1940s. He co-founded the Nederlandse Experimentele Groep (Dutch Experimental Group) in 1948, which merged later that year with artists in Copenhagen and Brussels to form the avant-garde collective CoBrA. Influenced by folk, children’s and modern art, Appel created a controversial mural called Vragende Kinderen (Questioning Children) in 1949 for Amsterdam’s city hall; it was covered up for ten years. Appel settled in Paris in 1950, and after two years detached himself from CoBrA. He then became part of an artistic movement centered around the critic Michel Tapié (1909–1987) known as art informel (or art autre). Appel is best known for his expressive and colorful paintings depicting fabulous creatures and masks, but also experimented fruitfully in other mediums and artistic fields. He was awarded solo shows at the Palais des Beaux-Arts (Palace of Fine Arts), Brussels, in 1953 and at Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, in 1954. He received the UNESCO Prize at the 1954 Venice Biennale and the Guggenheim International Award in 1960. His later work included a collaboration with Beat poet Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) in the 1980s.