Directly after World War II, they were in need off a free way of painting. And that included colour. They often painted animals and fantasy creatures. But their war past is also visible on their canvases.

Exhibition overview. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

Primal Animal

CoBrA, the colour of freedom contains more than twenty paintings, some sculptures and two ceramic bowls. You can see the Primal Animal and The Wild Boy by Karel Appel and other masterpieces by Constant, Corneille, Eugène Brands, Anton Rooskens and Lotti van der Gaag. All art is part of the museum collection, the museum purchased CoBrA work in the early 1950s.

Favourites of many visitors
Many people know the work of CoBrA. The group took its name from the capitals where the participants worked. They spoke French, so they also wrote their city names in French: Copenhague, Bruxelles, Amsterdam. The members worked together for three years, between 1948 and 1951. However it was a short period, the influence turned out to be enormous. About seventy years later, the works of CoBrA are favourites of many visitors of the museum. Quite strange, because press and public initially reacted unanimously negative.

Spontaneous

Why was that? When the paint was just dry, the critics mainly saw ‘scrapings, chatter and bumps’. Nowadays the attraction lies in that spontaneous way of painting. It seems as if Karel Appel discovered his animals during painting. Something similar applies to the birds of Corneille, in his view the symbol of freedom, movement and travel.

Horrors of war

However, not every CoBrA artist had a cheerfully outlook on the future. Six years after the Second World War, Constant paints the horrors of war. Instead of literal scenes, he tries to convey the feeling of despair, destruction and horror. His title Scorched Earth is significant. It refers to the tactic of the German troops of the same name to destroy everything that came their way.