Born in Amsterdam, Appel began his career creating assemblages from the few materials available during World War II—objects found in the street, including newspapers, wood, and linen sacks—which he painted in bold, bright colors. In 1948, just months after founding the Experimental Group in Amsterdam, Appel joined Danish and Belgian artists including Asger Jorn and Pierre Alechinsky to found the short-lived CoBrA movement. Inspired by Jean Dubuffet’s raw art (art brut), Appel and other CoBrA artists rejected academic painting, promoting irrational and naïve art to examine the human condition following the horrors of the war.
Appel’s painting shows an exaggerated walking figure composed of bold gestural lines and abstract shapes. The background consists of repeated prints of newspaper classified ads for a medical center and anti-hepatitis steroids. Divided by black lines, these blocks of advertisements create the illusion of a commercial-infiltrated landscape that competes for the attention and bodies of passersby.