Description: Petite fille
signed and dated 'CKAppel 51' (lower right), and signed and dated again, inscribed and inscribed with title 'Liège' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
88 x 64 cm.
Artist or Maker: Karel Appel (Dutch, B. 1921)
Exhibited: New York, Martha Jackson Gallery, Appel, Richier, Paslozzi, 1959.
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist by the father of the present owner in 1961.
Notes: PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTION
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In 1950 a number of the Dutch experimentalists moved out of their country, where they were hardly appreciated, to Paris. Appel and Corneille set up their studio in the Rue Santeuil. Appel's work changed in that period. He still focuses on children's art, seeing children as the closest to the origination of life and their responses most directly related to their environment. Therefore they respresent hope and life for Appel. In Paris he starts painting human figures, often frontal, seldomly engaged in any recognisable action. What immediately seizes one's attention is the big eyes looking straight at the observer.
As Stokvis states: "Voorts werd gebruik gemaakt van een krachtige omlijning voor de figuren, die tot eenzelfde fantasiewereld lijken te behoren, en ronde vormen die zowel in de figuren zelf als in hun omgeving voorkomen. Sommige schilderijen uit die tijd doen met hun strakke achtergrond en nadrukkelijke omlijning van de figuren waarin vaak veel wit is verwerkt wat houterig aan, maar daardoor ook komisch en speelgoedachtig" (W. Stokvis, Cobra, de weg naar spontaniteit, Blaricum 2003, p. 345-346).
Because of financial problems in that period, Appel reworked used canvases, applied his paint thinly, bought cheap material and searched for old material. The present lot has an unusual form. As far as we
know Appel used this octagonal form only once. The stretcher of the work is older than the painting itself, and can be dated around the end of the 19th century. The octagonal stretcher was often used in that period for oval portrait painting, and it seems very likely that Appel recycled an old stretcher he probably picked up in Liège, as the painting is inscribed 'Liège 1951'.
The second large international Cobra-exhibition was held in Liège from 6 October to 6 November 1951. This exhibition, which was even larger than the one in Amsterdam, was organised by Corneille and Alechinsky in cooperation with the Cobra collector Ernest van Zuylen. The preparation for this exhibition certainly brought Appel to Liège where he must have painted 'La petite fille'.
In 1957 Appel went to New York for the first time. Here he met Martha Jackson who invited him to participate in an exhibition together with Paslozzi and Richier. Appel selected the present lot to be part of this first exhibition in the United States.
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