The Phillips Collection’s Director Dorothy Kosinski announced 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 the 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.