Musique Barbare and painting

108 GM 2007S1185

108 (Black is beautiful, Rubens to Dumas catalogue)
Karel Appel,Portrait of a negro (title) 1945
Ink and chalk on paper, 29.5 x21.8 cm
Gemeentemuseum The HagueCollection,

Although Karel Appel did not become seriously interested in African visual language until 1947, he produced this expressionist Portrait of a negro in 1945. The work shows a blue man with red apple cheeks. The work seems to be closely affiliated with that of the pre-war expressionist Groningen artists of De Ploeg, in particular Hendrik Werkman 1882 –1945, for it employs the same simple forms and large planes of colour.

muzikaleimpressiewerkman347k163_voorplaat Hendrik Werkman KB collectie

The fact that the Second World War had just come to an end may have influenced Appel in his choice of subject and style for this work.

During the war years the Nazis banned any art they considered ‘degenerate’, which included all expressionist work. The ‘barbaric music’ produced by black jazz musicians, who did not belong to the chosen Aryan race, was similarly prohibited. This work, from 1945, seems to celebrate liberation from all these prohibitions.

Appel later explained that he had adored expressionist art and black jazz musicians from an early age. He would continue to feel this way throughout his life.

The Nazis called jazz music barbaric; Appel himself later aspired to be a barbarian. In 1961 he declared in the documentary, De werkelijkheid van Karel Appel (The reality of Karel Appel) by Jan Vrijman: ‘I paint like a barbarian in a barbaric age’.

Esther Schreuder in Black is beautiful, Rubens to Dumas (2008)

Musique Barbare

All photos on this site are not intended for any commercial purpose. I have tried to trace all the rules and rights of all images. The (c) for the Appel from the Gemeentemuseum are paid (Black is beautiful catalogue and website). As far as I know, these images can be used in this way. If you ar a copyright holder and would like a piece of your work removed or the creditline changed then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Research has been made possible thanks to a contribution of de Mondriaan foundation, AFK and VSB fonds.

Early work by Appel will be at the exhibition “Geaarde kunst”.  This exhibition in Museum Arnhem will display a powerful, representative selection from an art collection that was assembled during a dark period of Dutch history. During the Second World War the Dutch State purchased more art than ever before. Also  work by Appel. Appel became a member of the ‘Cultuurkamer’. (only for financial reasons as far as I know)  See :