Artwork Information

  • Title:

    Circus, Mirror of the World

  • Artist:

    Appel, Karel

  • Artist Bio:

    Dutch, 1921–2006

  • Date:


  • Medium:

    Color woodcut and embossing

  • Dimensions:

    30 x 22 1/4 inches

  • Credit Line:

    Wichita Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Hirschl in memory of Mrs. Elizabeth S. Navas

  • Object Number:


  • Display:

    Not Currently on Display

About the Artwork

Karel Appel’s joyous Circus images express the artist’s belief that art and life find their most powerful source of renewal in the innocence and spontaneity of children. Appel began his own artistic career at the close of World War II when the whole of Western culture appeared to be in ruin. As a young artist he adopted unconventional artistic techniques and subjects in order to remake Western art from scratch.

Appel was born in Amsterdam where he studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He later lived in New York and Paris. Appel first earned fame as one of the founders of the revolutionary artistic movement CoBrA (1949). Although the name sounds ominous it originated as a playful acronym for the member artists’ capital cities: Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam. The young artist of CoBrA responded to the ideas of such artistic movements as expressionism, surrealism, and Art Brut. However, they rejected any adherence to theory as repressive and advocated a child-like attitude of openness to sensation and discovery.

Appel’s respect for the elemental creativity of the child and his cultivation of a child-like mode of seeing inspired his exuberant Circus images of the late 1970s. From 1976 to 1978 Appel worked on a series of 15 hand-painted wooden sculptures of circus figures and a suite of hand-printed color woodcuts.