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The COBRA-group: Formed and performed by avant-garde artists

The artist group COBRA was short-lived but highly influential. Formed by Karel Appel, Asger Jorn, Corneille and Constant Nieuwenhuys (known as Constant), the group was named after the cities where the group’s founding members lived – Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. On November 8 1948 in a café in Paris, the artists signed their first manifesto guided by the Belgian painter and poet Christian Dotremont. The founding principles uniting them was later recalled by Dotremont: ”Creation before theory; that art must have roots; materialism which begins with the material; the mark as a sign of wellbeing, spontaneity, experimentation: it was the simultaneity of these elements which created COBRA.”

Common to the members of the group was that they regarded the post-war art as out-dated, traditional and sterile, why they sought to confront and challenge predominant Western ideologies. Constant Nieuwenhuys expressed their aim in the following words: ”Today’s individualist culture has replaced creation with artistic production, which has produced nothing but signs of a tragic impotence and cries of despair from the individual, enslaved by aesthetic prohibitions. The way out of this impasse was obvious: revolution, driven by the need to discover our desires”.

Instead of turning to traditional conventions, the COBRA artists drew inspiration from ancient Nordic myths, works by the mentally ill and children’s art. Collaborative artworks was encouraged, as this was a way of turning against individualism and worked together on murals, prints and publications. The Surrealism movement was the one preceding movement fascinating the COBRA artists, inspiring them to take on the Surrealist idea of “automatism”. By allowing the unconscious mind to control their hands, they could surrender fully to the making of art. In 1949, the group exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, creating a worldwide interest for their expressive paintings. When the group disbanded in 1951, over 60 painters, sculptors and poets were involved from Germany, Sweden, France, England, Belgium, The Netherlands and Denmark. Artists such as Carl-Henning Pedersen, Pierre Alechinsky and Egill Jacobsen were all members of the COBRA group.

Uppsala Auktionskammare is pleased to offer a wide range of works by some of the most influential artists in the COBRA group. Several of these works come from the collection of Arne Sörgård (1927-2018), an enthusiastic art lover who visited many of the prominent art galleries in Scandinavia, carefully selecting works to his collection. This stunning collection includes works by Corneille, Pierre Alechinsky, Egill Jacobsen and Carl-Henning Pedersen among others. Included in the sale are several paintings by one of the founding members of the group Karel Appel, the highlight among them being “The kiss” from 1966.

The COBRA movement influenced a whole generation of artists and formed the post-war art scene. Their aspiration to change the society through reinvention of art makes them one of the most important avant-garde groups of the 20th century.

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Jeanna Ahlin


Modern & Contemporary Art
Phone: +46 (0)734-32 41 45

Sofie Bexhed

Head of Sales

Phone: +46 (0)705-22 61 62