COBRA (avant-garde movement)
COBRA was a European avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

Art movement
An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a restricted period of time, or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years...

 active from 1948 to 1951. The name was coined in 1948 by Christian Dotremont
Christian Dotremont
Christian Dotremont, , was a Belgian painter and poet who was born in Tervuren, Belgium. He was a founding member of the group Cobra, and later became well known for his painted poems, which he called logograms....

 from the initials of the members' home cities: Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

 (Co), Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 (Br), Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...



COBRA was formed by Karel Appel
Karel Appel
Christiaan Karel Appel was a Dutch painter, sculptor, and poet. He started painting at the age of fourteen and studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in the 1940s...

, Constant
Constant Nieuwenhuys
Constant Anton Nieuwenhuys was a Dutch painter, and one of the foremost innovators of Unitary Urbanism. In 1941, he became deeply interested in the work of Paul Cézanne, Cubism and German Expressionism....

, Corneille
Guillaume Cornelis van Beverloo
Guillaume Cornelis van Beverloo , better known under his pseudonym Corneille, was a Dutch artist.Corneille was born in Liege, Belgium, although his parents were Dutch and moved back to the Netherlands when he was 12. He studied art at the Academy of Art in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands...

, Christian Dotremont
Christian Dotremont
Christian Dotremont, , was a Belgian painter and poet who was born in Tervuren, Belgium. He was a founding member of the group Cobra, and later became well known for his painted poems, which he called logograms....

, Asger Jorn
Asger Jorn
Asger Oluf Jorn was a Danish painter, sculptor, ceramic artist, and author. He was a founding member of the avant-garde movement COBRA and the Situationist International...

, and Joseph Noiret on 8 November 1948 in the Café Notre-Dame, Paris, with the signing of a manifesto, "La Cause Était Entendue" ("The Case Was Settled"), drawn up by Dotremont. Formed with a unifying doctrine of complete freedom of colour and form, as well as antipathy towards Surrealism
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

, the artists also shared an interest in Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 as well as modernism.
Their working method was based on spontaneity and experiment, and they drew their inspiration in particular from children’s drawings, from primitive art forms and from the work of Paul Klee and Joan Miró.

Coming together as an amalgamation of the Dutch group Reflex, the Danish group Høst and the Belgian Revolutionary Surrealist Group, the group only lasted a few years but managed to achieve a number of objectives in that time; the periodical Cobra, a series of collaborations between various members called Peintures-Mot and two large-scale exhibitions. The first of these was held at the Stedelijk Museum
Stedelijk Museum
Founded in 1874, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam is a museum for classic modern and contemporary art in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It has been housed on the Paulus Potterstraat, next to Museum Square Museumplein and to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Concertgebouw, in Amsterdam Zuid...

 in Amsterdam, November 1949, the other at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Liège in 1951.

In November 1949 the group officially changed its name to Internationale des Artistes Expérimentaux with membership having spread across Europe and the USA, although this name has never stuck. The movement was officially disbanded in 1951, but many of its members remained close, with Dotremont in particular continuing collaborations with many of the leading members of the group. The primary focus of the group consisted of semi-abstract paintings with brilliant color, violent brushwork, and distorted human figures inspired by primitive and folk art and similar to American action painting
Action painting
Action painting sometimes called "gestural abstraction", is a style of painting in which paint is spontaneously dribbled, splashed or smeared onto the canvas, rather than being carefully applied...

. Cobra was a milestone in the development of Tachisme
Tachisme is a French style of abstract painting popular in the 1940s and 1950s. It is often considered to be the European equivalent to abstract expressionism...

 and European abstract expressionism
Abstract expressionism
Abstract expressionism was an American post–World War II art movement. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence and put New York City at the center of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris...



Other participants in COBRA included:

  • Pierre Alechinsky
    Pierre Alechinsky
    Pierre Alechinsky is a Belgian artist. He has lived and worked in France since 1951. His work is related to Tachisme, Abstract expressionism, and Lyrical Abstraction.Alechinsky was born in Brussels...

     (born 1927)
  • Else Alfelt
    Else Alfelt
    Else Alfelt was a painter who was born and died in Copenhagen. She was one of the two women in the CoBrA. She was married to Carl-Henning Pedersen, also a veteran of CoBrA....

  • Jean-Michel Atlan
    Jean-Michel Atlan
    -Biography:Of Algerian Jewish descent, Atlan was born in Constantine, French Algeria, and moved to Paris in 1930. He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. He started as a self taught painter in 1941. He was arrested for being Jewish and for his political activism in 1942. He pleaded insanity and was...

  • Ejler Bille
    Ejler Bille
    Ejler Bille was a Danish artist. He studied at the Kunsthåndværkerskolen in Copenhagen, with Bizzie Høyer 1930-32 and the Royal Danish Academy of Art, 1933. In 1934 he joined Linien, Corner in 1940 and CoBrA in 1949. He had concentrated on small sculptures, but moved into painting after joining...

  • Pol Bury
    Pol Bury
    Pol Bury was a Belgian sculptor who began his artistic career as a painter in the Jeune Peintre Belge and COBRA groups. Among his most famous works is the fountain-sculpture L'Octagon, located in San Francisco....

  • Jacques Calonne
    Jacques Calonne
    Jacques Calonne is a Belgian artist, composer, singer, actor, logogramist, and writer.-Life:Calonne studied music from 1944–46 at the conservatories of Mons and Brussels, with amongst others the composer André Souris, who introduced him to the surrealist movement...

     (born 1930)
  • Hugo Claus
    Hugo Claus
    Hugo Maurice Julien Claus was a leading Belgian author who published under his own name as well as various pseudonyms. Claus' literary contributions spanned the genres of drama, the novel, and poetry; he also left a legacy as a painter and film director...

  • Jacques Doucet (1924–1994)
  • Lotti van der Gaag
    Lotti van der Gaag
    Charlotte van der Gaag, better known as Lotti van der Gaag was a Dutch sculptor and painter and strongly associated with members of the COBRA arts movement....

  • William Gear
    William Gear
    William Gear was a painter, born on 2 August 1915 in Methil in the south-east of Fife, Scotland. Born into a mining family, he studied at Edinburgh College of Art before travelling to Paris to study with Fernand Léger....

  • Stephen Gilbert
    Stephen Gilbert
    Stephen Gilbert was a British painter and sculptor. He was one of the few British artists to fully embrace the avante garde movement in Paris in the 1950s.-Early years:...

  • Svavar Guðnason
    Svavar Guðnason
    Svavar Guðnason was an Icelandic painter.-Bibliography:*...


  • Henry Heerup
    Henry Heerup
    Henry Heerup was a painter and sculptor born in Frederiksberg, Denmark.He studied painting under Axel Jørgensen and Einar Nielsen at the Royal Danish Academy of Art. He also studied sculpture there under Einar Utzon-Frank. He painted The Old Oak in Wolfvalley in 1924. This was his first oil...

  • Edouard Jaguer
    Edouard Jaguer
    Edouard Jaguer was a French poet and art critic linked with the surrealist movement.He was born on 8 August 1924 in Paris and died on 9 May 2006 in Paris.He was involved with many groups and revues including:* La Main a la Plume...

  • Aart Kemink
    Aart Kemink
    Aart Kemink was a Dutch-Canadian painter, born May 30, 1914 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands....

  • Lucebert
    Lucebert was a Dutch artist who first became known as the poet of the COBRA movement.He was born in Amsterdam in 1924...

  • Jørgen Nash
    Jørgen Nash
    Jørgen Nash was a Danish artist, writer and central proponent of situationism. He was born in Vejrum, Jutland, Denmark, baptized Jørgen Axel Jørgensen, the brother of Asger Jorn. He later changed his family name from Jørgensen to Nash. He was married three times and has six children...

  • Jan Nieuwenhuys
    Jan Nieuwenhuys
    Jan Nieuwenhuys was a Dutch painter and one of the early active founders of the Dutch Experimentalists group that later became part of CoBrA.-Life and work:Nieuwenhuys was born in Amsterdam....

  • Erik Ortvad
    Erik Ortvad
    Erik Ortvad was a painter and a creator of many drawings. He debuted as a painter in 1935. He is mostly known for colorful surrealistic paintings....

  • Pieter Ouborg (1893–1956)
  • Carl-Henning Pedersen
    Carl-Henning Pedersen
    Carl-Henning Pedersen was a Danish painter and a key member of the COBRA movement. He was known as the "Scandinavian Chagall", and was one of the leading Danish artists of the second half of the 20th century....

  • Raoul Ubac
    Raoul Ubac
    Raoul Ubac was a French painter, sculptor, photographer and engraver.In 1937, he made Tete du Mannequin, a photograph taken of a mannequin consisting of everyday objects. Another of his work's include the photograph 'La Conciliabule'...

  • Serge Vandercam
    Serge Vandercam
    Serge Vandercam was a Belgian painter, photographer, sculptor and ceramist associated with the CoBrA group.-External links:** Serge Vandercam*...


Related artists

Artists who had contact with, and were influenced by COBRA:

  • Enrico Baj
    Enrico Baj
    Enrico Baj was an Italian artist and writer on art. Many of his works show an obsession with nuclear war. He created prints, sculptures but especially collage. He was close to the surrealist and dada movements, and was later associatied with CoBrA. As an author he has been described as a leading...

  • Jerome Bech
    Jerome Bech
    Jerome Bech is a Dutch artist known for colourful paintings and objects, sometimes signed with humorous textual remarks.Bech was born in Amsterdam and grew up in Hoevelaken. He attended a Waldorf school, known for its foundation in Anthroposophy...

  • Herbert Gentry
    Herbert Gentry
    Herbert Gentry was an African American Expressionist painter lived and worked in Paris, France, , Copenhagen, Denmark , In the Swedish cities of Gothenburg , Stockholm , and Malmo , and in New York City as a permanent resident of the Hotel Chelsea.-The art of Herbert Gentry:Gentry’s...

  • Robert Jacobsen
    Robert Jacobsen
    Robert Julius Tommy Jacobsen was a Danish sculptor and painter. The Danish Robert award was named after him.-Biography:...

  • Vali Myers
    Vali Myers
    Vali Myers was an Australian artist who specialized in fine pen and ink drawings, born in Canterbury, Sydney....

  • John Olsen
    John Olsen (artist)
    John Henry Olsen, AO, OBE is an Australian artist. Olsen's primary subject of work is landscape.-Biography:John Olsen was born in Newcastle on 21 January 1928 and moved to Bondi Beach with his family in 1935, which began his lifelong fascination with Sydney Harbour...

  • Shinkichi Tajiri
    Shinkichi Tajiri
    Shinkichi Tajiri was a Dutch-American sculptor of Japanese ancestry . He was also active in painting, photography and cinematography....

  • Alasdair Taylor
    Alasdair Taylor
    Alasdair Grant Taylor was a Scottish artist and sculptor.- Life :Alasdair Taylor was born in Ross-shire and trained as an artist at the Glasgow School of Art, subsequently living in Denmark and Glasgow. In 1967 he moved to Portencross, Ayrshire, where he lived reclusively with his wife Annelise...

  • Louis Van Lint
    Louis Van Lint
    Louis Van Lint was a Belgian painter, major figure of the Belgian post-war abstraction.- Biography :Louis Van Lint studied painting at the Academy of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode under Henry Ottevaere and Jacques Maes until 1939...

  • Maurice Wyckaert
    Maurice Wyckaert
    Maurice Wyckaert was a Belgian artist, born in 1923, in the city of Brussels. He is a neo-expressionistic, lyrical abstract painter, gouache designer and printmaker. Enjoyed his education at the Academy of Brussels and in Sint-Joost-ten-Node and the Vrije Atelier of Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe...



There is a Cobra Museum
Cobra Museum
The Cobra Museum is an art museum in Amstelveen, Netherlands. The collection of the museum consists of key works by artists of the Vrij Beelden , Cobra , and Creatie movements.-External links:*...

 in Amstelveen
' is a suburban municipality in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. It is part of the metropolitan area of Amsterdam. The municipality of Amstelveen consists of the following villages and/or districts: Amstelveen, Bovenkerk, Westwijk, Bankras-Kostverloren, Groenelaan, Waardhuizen,...

, Netherlands, displaying works by Karel Appel
Karel Appel
Christiaan Karel Appel was a Dutch painter, sculptor, and poet. He started painting at the age of fourteen and studied at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in the 1940s...

 and other international avant-garde art.

Auctioneers Bruun Rasmussen held an auction of COBRA artists on April 3, 2006 in Copenhagen. It set records for the highest price for an Asger Jorn
Asger Jorn
Asger Oluf Jorn was a Danish painter, sculptor, ceramic artist, and author. He was a founding member of the avant-garde movement COBRA and the Situationist International...

painting (6.4 million DKK for Tristesse Blanche) and for the highest amount raised in a single auction in Denmark (30 million DKK in total).

External links

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