Cobra is a conflation of the names of the capitals – Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam – of the countries of origin of the group’s first members. The Cobra movement was a brief period in modern European art led by painters and writers.
It was founded by the Belgian painter-writers Christian Dotremont and Joseph Noiret. The main figure in Copenhagen was Asger Jorn, and in Brussels the writer Hugo Claus. In Amsterdam Eugene Brands, Anton Rooskens and Lucebert, among others, were members of Cobra.
They rejected the prevailing academic, intellectually ‘premeditated’ forms of art, advocating ‘spontaneity’ instead. They drew inspiration from primitive art forms, children’s drawings and outsider art, which they saw as ‘unspoilt’ and pure. Although this group did not last long – from 1948 to 1951 – it had a profound impact on modern European art.