Artist as Poet: Solitary Bird

On July 21, 2016, Deputy Director for Curatorial and Academic Affairs Klaus Ottmann shares an overview of Karel Appel: A Gesture of Color. In anticipation, we’re sharing examples of Appel’s poetry paired with his artwork on the blog. 

Appel_Big Head

Karel Appel, Big Head, 1964. Oil on canvas, 74 5/8 x 90 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Gift of the Karel Appel Foundation, 2016

I saw a mouth screaming
and a knife dancing
with a happy crime
that’s enough
that’s OK
it isn’t enough
it isn’t OK

Karel Appel, “TV in the Open Window”










Appel_The Owlman no. 1

Karel Appel, The Owlman no. 1, 1960. Acrylic on olive-tree stump, 61 3/4 x 35 5/8 x 20 1/2 in. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

If I were a bird
so they would say
He flies alone
they would say
He flies through the night
I fly higher and higher
no longer a bird

Karel Appel, “Solitary Bird”
(trans. Klaus Ottmann)

William Merritt Chase’s Tenth Street Studio

The Tenth Street Studio, 1880 (oil on canvas) by Chase, William Merritt

William Merritt Chase, The Tenth Street Studio, 1880. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 48 1/4 in. St. Louis Art Museum, Bequest of Albert Blair

Celebrated as “one of the finest studios in the city,” William Merritt Chase’s lavish Tenth Street Studio brimming with a diverse array of objects, paintings, textiles, and bric-a-brac is brilliantly captured in this painting. Chase arranged the space of his studio with the same artistic eye for color, rhythm, and harmony that he imparted to his art. As he said, “A wall should be treated as a canvas is. Real objects take the place of colors.” This painting provides an expansive frontal view into the grand interior chamber of Chase’s studio, where we witness an exchange between a young woman and the artist. The white of the woman’s cascading dress on which rests the paw of Chase’s black Russian hound draws the viewer into the scene; off to her right, in the shadow, is her attentive interlocutor Chase with palette in hand to suggest that he is in the process of his craft. Whereas Chase’s presence is only implied in the other studio pictures, here he has inserted himself into the painting, thereby offering a glimpse into the way the studio was at once a place for art-making and a place to receive patrons, students, and friends.

Elsa Smithgall, Exhibition Curator