On 8 November 2018 it is exactly 70 years ago that the Cobra movement was founded in Paris. Its members were artists and poets from various European countries. The joy of complete spiritual and artistic freedom and spontaneity was their counterbalance to the nightmare of the war. Cobra caused quite an uproar in the Netherlands. The Dutch press spoke of ‘scribble, claptrap and splotches’. 

Cobra: A Multi-headed snake

Now, the then so revolutionary Cobra is anchored in European art history. In it, Cobra is mainly associated with colourful, expressive-spontaneous painting that was of influence long after the movement had fallen apart. The founders had very different ideas about the meaning of Cobra. For some that meaning could indeed be found in Cobra’s contribution to artistic developments, for others in Cobra’s spirit of absolute freedom and for yet others in the collaborations between the members and the cross-pollination between poets and painters. One thing is certain: there was never any unanimity about the meaning of Cobra. Perhaps it were precisely the contradictions and disagreements between its members that determined Cobra’s character, since these gave Cobra its vitality.

This exhibition therefore focuses on the diverse, sometimes diametrically opposed perspectives on Cobra. The oppositional dynamics stand out in quotes on festive flags around the glass wall of the inner courtyard. In the selection of works and archive materials, the emphasis is on the period that the movement officially existed, 1948-1951, but works from earlier and later dates are also included in the exhibition.