1948-1951: Cobra – a creative utopia
Fuelled by an optimistic belief that artistic creativity could be used as a model for the reconstruction of a society ravaged by war, a group of Danish, Belgian, and Dutch artists formed the Cobra movement in 1948. Their ambition was to work together to transcend national boundaries and bridge the various art forms.
Cobra was a collective movement aimed at collaborative work and joint exhibition activity. The members comprised artists from Denmark, Belgium, and The Netherlands such as Christian Dotremont, Karel Appel, Constant Nieuwenhuis, and Constant. They had become acquainted through the Le Surréalisme Revolutionnaire; an avant-garde movement formed after the war with the objective of reinventing Surrealism by merging revolutionary politics and art.
Building a new society
The name Cobra was formed out of the first letters of the members’ home towns: COpenhagen, BRussels, and Amsterdam. All members shared an optimistic belief that creativity could serve as the basis for building a new society after the war. The artists were united by their shared Communist views, and all of them were associated with experimental groups in their home countries.
Collaboration and conflict
The group’s objective was "organic, experimental collaboration", as stated in their 1948 manifesto. They wanted a type of collaboration that allowed scope for great artistic diversity. Nevertheless, conflict loomed on the horizon right from the outset: there was tension between poets and painters, and the group’s relationship with the Communist party was also a bone of contention. Thus, optimism was supplemented by resistance and conflict as part of the driving force and energy behind the Cobra group.