City people (1966) Karel Appel

BKOR archive
About the artwork

Artist Karel Appel had become involved in the construction of a new building at the Dutch Economic College (NEH), under the auspices of architect Cornelis Elffers. Under the percentage scheme, artists were involved in the company, including Rotterdam specialist Ger van Iersel, Dick Elffers (a brother of the architect), Lucebert and therefore Karel Appel. Piet Sanders (1912-2012) had an important part in the choice, because he was a professor at the NEH and he was also part of the art committee in the context of the new building. Appel made a design for the awning above the former entrance to the high-rise. It had to become a ceramic tile tableware, but this proved to be a costly undertaking. In the end, the costs of the tableau would not be borne by the percentage scheme, because NV Meelfabrieken der Nederlandse Bakkerij (Meneba) extended a helping hand. The company existed for fifty years in 1965 and the management decided to offer Rotterdam two works of art. The NEH was offered 100.000 guilders, so that Karel Appel could realize his 'facade decoration'. The second work of art was a gift to the Daniel den Hoed clinic, the bronze sculpture Clouds by artist Gust Romijn. City people (1966), as the ceramic tableau by Appel is entitled, consists of a series of colorful drawings (originally set in chalk and gouache) against a background of white baked tiles. It is a portrait gallery of students, young city dwellers, for whom the future is still open. The white tiles, made by the Porceleyne Fles in Delft, create an alienating, but also virgin, unspoilt atmosphere. Everything is still possible; promises have not yet been delivered. The series of portraits is an ode to youth, freedom and the future, to life force. The work is signed with Apple '66 in the lower right corner. Nowadays this building is called the Tinbergen Building and is part of the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Click here! for an overview of artworks on Woudestein campus.

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About the artist

Karel Appel (Amsterdam, 1921 - Zurich, 2006) attended painting classes from 1942 to 1944 at the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. The first post-war work of Karel Appel was experimental, but still inspired by modern classics. A visit to Paris in 1947 brought a change; Appel was influenced by Jean Dubuffet, primitive art and surrealism. He believed that art would free the human mind. As co-founder of CoBrA, he developed an expressive form of painting and became one of the best-known Dutch painters, with an important place in art history. Afterwards he made painted wooden reliefs and freestanding sculptures, ceramics and carried out monumental commissions.

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