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Karel Appel

/Works and biography

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The Crying Crocodile Tries to Catch the Sun, 1956
Oil on canvas, 145.5 x 113.1 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection 76.2553 PG 174
© Karel Appel, by SIAE 2008


Karel Appel, like Asger Jorn, was a member of the COBRA group, which emphasized material and its spontaneous application. Although the group was short-lived, its concerns have endured in his work. The single standing figures of humans or animals he developed during the 1950s are rendered in a deliberately awkward, naive way, with no attempt at modeling or perspectival illusionism. Thus, the crocodile in this painting is presented as a flat and immobile form, contoured with heavy black lines in the manner of a child’s drawing. Appel’s paint handling activates a frenzy of rhythmic movement in this work despite the static monumentality of the subject. The physicality of the impasto and its topographic variety allow it to reflect light and cast shadows dramatically, increasing the emotional intensity of violent color contrasts.

credits: Hangar Design Group