Karel Appel (Dutch, 1921-2006)
Presque Une Joie
Dated and signed "1960 AppeL" l.l., identified on a presentation plaque,
signed, dated, titled, and inscribed "Appel 1960 Jan./ …Venise" in the artist's hand on the stretchers, stamped "RACCOLTA ALDO VENEZIA" on the reverse, with a shipping label from Delamare & Cie., Paris, on the reverse.
Oil on canvas, 38 x 57 1/2 in. (96.5 x 146.1 cm), framed.
Condition: Minor craquelure, surface grime.
Provenance: Purchased from Aldo Seno (Raccolta Aldo), Venice, 1969, by present owner, Providence, Rhode Island.
N.B. We wish to thank the Karel Appel Foundation for kindly confirming the authenticity of the lot. The work is no. 1203X60, and a photo-certificate from the Karel Appel Foundation accompanies the lot.
Like his compatriot Willem DeKooning, Appel never abandoned figuration as a subject. Unlike DeKooning, however, he explored figuration by privileging color over line. From 1953 onward, Appel applied paint with a heavy impasto--sometimes directly from their tubes--using color as texture to approximate form. By 1960, Appel had completely developed his signature style, moving away from "static layers of painted planes that are positioned on top of, or next to, each other" into unrestrained gesture, exuberant color and sensuous surface. (1)
While the present work is not explicitly figurative, its title ["Almost a Joy"] refers to the human condition in terms of melancholy. For Appel, despair was always a counterpart to joy, but the speed in which it could change from one extreme to the other was paradigmatic of the modern world. In a journal entry from 1959, Appel muses on the mania of modern life: "After two world wars, living between old and new systems, atomic explosions, space rockets, the howl of Ray Charles, the barbaric rupturing of human values, man moves over the earth like boiling lava, destroying himself, procreating, with a spatial thinking apart from the earth. This crazy joyful scream, full of vitality, far above the infinite fantasy bordering on insanity, this explosive overwhelming love for life before the doom of the great master, culture overcomes the pupils." (2)
(1) Florian Steininger, "Karel Appel in His Period of Time," Karel Appel Retrospective 1945-2005, Bratislava: Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum, 2005, p. 39.
(2) Alfred Frankenstein, ed., Karel Appel. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1980), p. 57.
Subtle waviness to canvas in u.l. corner; stable craquelure primarily to heaviest areas of impasto in u.r. and u.l. quadrants; would benefit from a cleaning; no additional condition issues to report.