Lotti van der Gaag (1923, The Hague – 1994, Nieuwegein)
The Cobra Museum has two Fools. A small “Fool” by Lotti van der Gaag that can be seen in the exhibition New Nuances and the big Fool. The latter has been on Keizer Karelweg in Amstelveen since 2003. Right next to the Cobra Museum. It is a long-term loan from Isis van Bohemen, the daughter of Lotti van der Gaag and Kees van Bohemen. The bronze work was made in 1951 and is 2 meters high and weighs 500 kg.
When Lotti van der Gaag began sculpting in the 1940s, her sculptures took on the form of fantastic creatures. They bear a strong likeness to the creatures that would populate paintings by Cobra artists. From 1950 Van der Gaag lived in Paris on Rue Santeuil, just like Karel Appel and Corneille, co-founders of Cobra. Van der Gaag’s fantastic creatures were succeeded by abstracted animals. From the 1950s onwards, there was a development towards open, abstract constructions in terracotta and plaster, some of which were cast in bronze.
Van der Gaag enjoyed great success with her work in the 1950s and 1960s and was regularly mentioned as one of Cobra’s experimentalists during this period. Her success was not without cost, though. For example, the father of her child proposed to her, but she refused to marry him because he wanted her to stop working. In 1987 Van der Gaag said: “Almost all men like it when their wives draw, paint and sculpt a little, as long as it remains a cute little hobby.”
In the historiography of Cobra, Van der Gaag was initially disregarded. This was later corrected, however, because of the strong affinity in the way both she and Cobra members worked, but also because Van der Gaag was part of the life in the studio complex in Paris. But a number of Cobra artists, such as Corneille, would continue to oppose the idea of Van der Gaag as part of Cobra. After all, she had not been actively involved in important moments of the movement.