A cobra is indeed a dangerous snake, but here the word Cobra is derived from the French names of the cities of Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam. The artists who founded the CoBrA group during a major international conference held in Paris in 1948 came from these three European capitals. A curled snake became the symbol of the movement.
It was in the Paris café Notre Dame that Asger Jorn (from Copenhagen), Joseph Noiret and Christian Dotremont (from Brussels) and Constant, Corneille and Karel Appel (from Amsterdam) signed the manifesto 'La Cause était entendue’ (The Case was Heard). This manifesto, drawn up by Dotremont, was a response to a statement by the French Surrealists entitled 'La Cause est entendue' (The Case is Heard). In it Dotremont makes it clear they are no longer in agreement with the French artists. The CoBrA painters wanted to break new ground, preferring to work spontaneously and with the emphasis more on fantastic imagery. In 1951 the CoBrA movement was officially disbanded, yet during its short existence CoBrA rejuvenated Dutch modern art.
The core of the CoBrA group consisted of the aforementioned painters who had signed the manifesto. They were soon joined by many other artists and in the end over forty artists were members of the CoBrA movement or indirectly involved. Not only painters, but also sculptors, poets, photographers and filmmakers felt drawn to CoBrA’s aims. Below is an alphabetical list of the group’s leading members:
from Denemarken: Mogens Balle, Ejler Bille, Henry Heerup, Egill Jacobsen, Carl-Henning Pedersen.
from België: Pierre Alechinsky, Hugo Claus, Reinhoud d'Haese.
from Nederland: Eugène Brands, Lucebert, Anton Rooskens, Theo Wolvecamp.
Artists from countries other than the original three also took part, including:
Jean Michel Atlan (Algeria), Jacques Doucet (France), William Gear and Stephen Gilbert (Scotland), Karl Otto Götz (Germany) and Shinkichi Tajiri (America).