Born in Hungary in 1900, Carl Pappe showed an early interest and talent
in drawing, taking up the only tools available, chalk and slate.
When Pappe was just five years old, his father immigrated to the United
States in search for a new life for his family. Six years later
they were reunited in Lorain, Ohio.
While in his early teens, he was apprenticed to a Hungarian muralist
working in Cleveland. From 1921 to 1925 he attended the Cleveland
School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art). Awarded a
scholarship by the Hungarian Society, he enrolled at the school of his
choice, the prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He
studied under Hugh Breckenridge and Daniel Garber from 1925 to
1926. The Academy awarded him a full scholarship, but he was
unable to complete his third year of studies due to medical problems.
In 1929 he worked in stage design for Paramount Studios in New York but
was laid off due to the economic recession. "If I am going to die of
hunger it won't be here", he said. Amidst the Depression, Carl
Pappe worked crafting repairs to the gold leaf of the ceilings of
theaters while refinishing furniture and sail boat decks in
Philadelphia and Boston. He started a drawing school for children
in Easton, Pennsylvania in a downstairs room of the Masonic Temple.
Tuition was 50 cents per week. This was the first of many
opportunities he took in instructing young people in the arts.
Pappe visited Mexico City in 1934, and began to work as a cook and tour
guide to earn money for rent on a studio where he could paint. He
met Bernice Goodspeed, his future wife, an anthropologist and tour
guide specializing in sites of antiquity. She became a designer
of silver jewelry and authored books on Mexican folklore, illustrated
by Pappe, then her husband. They opened a gallery in the still
quaint silver mining town of Taxco, southwest of Mexico City.
Acquainted with many interesting and influential people during his four
years in Mexico City, Pappe heard lectures on art given by Diego Rivera
and shared the same Swedish doctor with his friend Frida Kahlo,
Rivera's wife. He was a great admirer and friend of the sculpture
Isamu Noguchi. He also worked to become an apprentice to muralist
Jose Orozco, visiting his studio often. As a personal tour guide
to Amelia Earhart upon her arrival via solo flight, he took her to the
studio of Diego Rivera as well as the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon
outside of Mexico City. Pappe' friendship with Carlos Merida,
Juan O'Gorman and Ruffino Tamayo brought them to Taxco in an effort to
escape the politics and distractions in the Capital.
Carl Pappe outlived all of his contemporaries, a reality he attributed
to his avoidance of the tempting and often addicting evils of smoking,
drinking and fast living.
He left such distractions and settled in Taxco, Mexico's silver mining
capital in the Sierra Madre Mountains. There he was able to focus
entirely on art and all that delighted him, inspired by the love and
beauty that is Mexico. He could not live anywhere else, he said
of colonial Taxco. "That was the magnet that attracted me here, in the
heart. Painting and sculpting is my blood; that is what I was
trained for. Now with all my years what am I going to do?
There is nothing else but to continue until the end".
According to Abraham Davidson's essay, CARL PAPPE: The Late Works
(1995), "Pappe had not seen an ARTnews
since about 1945, had never watched television and heard radio for the
last time when listening to an Amos 'n Andy program." Davidson
further explains the abstract works as having "a controlled delicacy
and sureness of draftsmanship, which compel our close attention and
admiration. His pieces do not comprise a composition of diverse
parts or contain a focus." Another series inspired by Paul Klee's
of 1922-1930 are like going up or down scales of
music and according to Pappe they are put together so they "work as a
whole on all sides, forget the individual squares and feel what the
whole thing says to you".
Pappe's use of the vignette can be seen in works dating from 1980
through 1990. The strong lines outlining the works usually
contain washes used to illuminate the line drawing such that without
using perspective Pappe has caused dimensionality. Abstract works
crossover from early cubist toward Nahuatl glyphs. Much
reflection is seen in the contemporary Mexicana design; however, more
mysterious are the 'Anthropos' which seem to have come directly from
ancient shamanistic dreaming. Inherent in the human species, the animal
concepts are depicted in an anthropomorphic style. Pappe has
visited these images in a somewhat three dimensional outline of
prehistoric design which resemble artifacts of animals, living beings
or entities. His abstract line drawings resemble western
continental petroglyphs; webbing and connections could serve as spirit
catchers or preform the use of virtual universe.
Carl Pappe was a fellow of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
where his work has been shown. Several of his woodcut prints of
Taxco street scenes are among the collections at the Library of
Congress. An exhibit of his abstract pastels was held in 1994 by
the Government of Guerrero as a commemorative to his fifty five years
as an artist in Taxco. In 1995 over eighty of his abstracts were
shown at the Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia.
His sculptures, drawings and paintings hang on the walls of European,
Middle Eastern, American, South American as well as many Mexican
collectors who had visited him in Taxco through the years.
His creativity as an artist continuously evolved in art that ranged
from pencil and ink drawings, etchings, woodcuts, abstract sculptures
in solid silver, bronze busts, watercolors, oil paintings to his more
recent series of abstract pastels. Truly a modern scholar of numerous
genres of art and a generous instructor of his crafts, Carl Pappe's
creative spirit lives on in his century of art.
Submitted November 2005 by Peter Bissell, Cooperstown, New York.
The source is the website of a gallery in Santa Cruz, California