acronym of the names of the cities COpenhagen, BRussels and Amsterdam
by Per Hovdenakk
COBRA has at least two meanings: firstly, it is the name of a group of artists who collaborated for three years from 1948-1951. The artists in question came from Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands (COBRA is an acronym of the names of the cities COpenhagen, BRussels and Amsterdam). But today, COBRA is most frequently associated with a particular kind of painting, a distinctive "COBRA style" whose characteristic features include masks and imaginary figures that are neither animals nor people, nor a combination of the two.
This "COBRA style" can be traced back to Danish art of the 1930s. It was the painter Egill Jacobsen who introduced the mask as a pictorial motif, thereby paving the way for a figurative art no longer constrained by the conventions of a naturalistic representation of reality. This new direction gave the non-figurative painting a new ability to communicate and brought it out of its self-imposed, elitist isolation.
This new Danish school of painting developed during the isolation of the war years, when artists could express themselves freely without fear of censorship or political directives.
Once the war was over, the Danish artists travelled abroad and in Paris they met fellow artists who were enthusiastic about the potential of their new style of painting. COBRA was founded in 1948 around a table in a Paris cafÃ©. It was envisaged as a free collaboration devoid of ideological restraints. A major exhibition in Amsterdam in 1949 marked the inauguration of the group. But the collaboration only lasted for three years and fell apart as a result of ideological and personal differences, but primarily due to a lack of success or international breakthrough. Not until the 1960s did the group achieve acclaim, and today COBRA is regarded as one of the significant art movements of the post-war period.
Sonja Henie and Niels Onstad purchased a number of works by leading COBRA artists for their collection, now housed at the Henie-Onstad Art Centre at HÃ¸vikodden. Several more works have since been added to the collection, most of them as donations from artists and collectors.
COBRA was an important influence for many artists in Norway, even though it cannot be said that the effects of this influence have been very prominent. It is only now, amongst a much younger generation of Norwegian artists such as Nupen, Melgaard and Valde Jensen, that these effects can be seen more clearly.
Image: KAREL APPEL, Sommeren / The Summer, 1961
Foto: Ã˜ystein Thorvaldsen
Henie Onstad Art Centre is situated in BÃ¦rum Municipality, approximately 15 kilometres from the centre of Oslo.
Sonja Henies vei 31 NO-1311 Hovikodden
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