COBRA (or CoBrA) was a European avant-garde movement active from 1948 to 1951. The name was coined in 1948 by Christian Dotremont, a Belgian artist, from the initials of the members’ home cities: Copenhagen (Co), Brussels (Br), Amsterdam (A).
During the time of occupation of World War II, the Netherlands had been disconnected from the art world beyond its borders. COBRA was formed shortly thereafter. This international movement of artists who worked experimentally evolved from the criticisms of Western society and a common desire to break away from existing art movements, including “detested” naturalism and “sterile” abstraction. Experimentation was the symbol of an unfettered freedom, which, according to Constant, was ultimately embodied by children and the expressions of children.
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, with the signing of a manifesto, “La cause était entendue” (“The Case Was Settled”), 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.