COBRA (avant-garde movement)

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"Frog and Cat" by Karel Appel, at the Benesse House, Naoshima, Kagawa, Japan.

COBRA (or CoBrA) was a European avant-garde movement active from 1948 to 1951. The name was coined in 1948 by Christian Dotremont from the initials of the members' home cities: Copenhagen (Co), Brussels (Br), Amsterdam (A).


COBRA was formed by Karel Appel, Constant, Corneille, Christian Dotremont, Asger Jorn, and Joseph Noiret on 8 November 1948 in the Café Notre-Dame, Paris,[1] with the signing of a manifesto, "La Cause Était Entendue" ("The Case Was Settled"),[2] drawn up by Dotremont. Formed with a unifying doctrine of complete freedom of colour and form, as well as antipathy towards Surrealism, the artists also shared an interest in Marxism 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.[1]

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 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.[3] 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. Cobra was a milestone in the development of Tachisme and European abstract expressionism.

Cobra was perhaps the last avant-garde movement of the twentieth century.[4]


Related artists[edit]

Notable artists who had contact with, and/or were influenced by COBRA:


There is a Cobra Museum in Amstelveen, Netherlands, displaying works by Karel Appel 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 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). Gina Pellón

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b MOMA online collections page
  2. ^ "La Cause Était Entendue" is an ironical reference to the manifesto "La Cause Est Entendue" (The Case Is Settled) from the supporters of Revolutionary Surrealism
  3. ^ Cobra Museum
  4. ^ W. Stokvis - Cobra: The Last Avant-garde Movement of the Twentieth Century Lund Humphries 2004, 349 pages, ISBN 0853318980 [Retrieved 2015-07-15]

External links[edit]