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01 Jun 2020 - 17 Jan 2021

Presentation Surrealism and Cobra

The exhibition Surrealism and Cobra will be shown simultaneously with This is Surrealism! In this exhibition you can see, through works by the well-known Cobra artists,  both the influence and similarities as well as the contradictions and differences between Surrealism and Cobra. 


Image above: Henry Heerup, Kat med fugl (Cat with bird) 1950, collection Cobra Museum

At first glance, the artworks of Surrealism and Cobra may seem to have few similarities. Surrealism was nevertheless fundamental to (the origin of) the Cobra movement. Indeed, some of Cobra’s founders were closely involved in the Le Surréalisme Révolutionnaire group that was founded in 1947. Large disagreements soon arose within this group. Christian Dotremont, Joseph Noiret, Asger Jorn, Constant, Karel Appel and Corneille left a meeting of the surrealist group angry and disappointed in 1948. From this, a new group was born that was given the name Cobra.

Jan Elburg, Milkweed (1948) Collectie Cobra Museum

The Cobra artists were marked by the Second World War and were strongly attracted to the spontaneous creative process (also called psychic automatism) that was evoked from the subconscious. The Surrealists had long been concerned with making this subconscious visible. Many Cobra artists were mainly interested in the artist Joan Miró, who did not join the Surrealists, but according to André Breton was “the most surreal of us all”. The influence of Miró, who considered spontaneity important and made many sculptures from discarded materials, can be seen in a number of Cobra works, for example in Henry Heerups Kat med Fugl (1950).

The Cobra artists were also critical of Surrealism; for example, they had nothing to do with the narrative surrealism of artists such as Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. Constant and Asger Jorn, among others, wrote texts and manifestos in which they expressed their criticism of this form of surrealism. You will also encounter this countermovement in the exhibition.


The exhibition is displayed on the ground floor

Karel Appel Vragende Kinderen 1951 collectie Cobra museum

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