The Spirit of 1948

The above is the title of Asger Jorn’s expressive energy discharge of a painting, where he comments on the year of CoBrA’s foundation by letting a wild animal with bristling fur and bared teeth stare out at the viewer from the canvas. We are now placing a focus on the ground-breaking CoBrA artists with a large selection of their artwork.

While only two years had passed since the establishment of the CoBrA group, Asger Jorn already painted "The Spirit of 48" in 1950 – a wild and expressive work that brings to mind a wild animal that, trapped and with unbridled force, screams to get out and find an outlet for its untapped energy. Is it an echo of the war years, the tormented souls and the suppressed artistic creative urge that Jorn alludes to here? Or is the figure an inner demon? One thing we know for sure: In the two years that had passed since the CoBrA group's official establishment, the creative spirit had truly been let out of the bottle in Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam, which the group's ambiguous name alludes to. 

European Pluralism

On paper, the group was only active together from the end of 1948 until 1951, but the name stuck to the participating artists for the rest of their active careers. So, although the official period is short, the spontaneous and expressive approach to painting, sculpturing and writing becomes iconic and defining for an entire generation across national borders. It was again possible to work together freely, develop dreams and visions for a new world. Soon Jorn, Constant, Corneille, Dotremont, Appel, Alechinsky, Carl-Henning Pedersen, Wemäere, Lucebert, Brands, Mancoba, Balle and Heerup are bound together in words and deeds and as guarantors of an artistic revolution on the European continent.

Asger Jorn: "Sermo rusticus" (1969). Signed. Oil on canvas. 100 x 81 cm. Estimate: DKK 1.6-1.8 million.

Artistic Range

Anton Rooskens: "Indiaanse Motieven" (Indian Motifs) (1950). Signed. Oil on canvas. 65 x 81 cm. Estimate: DKK 350,000-400,000.

The fabulating and broad-ranging expressions of CoBrA art were reflected first and foremost in paintings but also in sculptures and not least in numerous prints. Often, the artwork was developed with the community at the forefront, in collaboration with other visual artists or poets. In this way, the members of the group also made sure that they could, in a broader sense, live up to their original ambition of being able to create art for the people in the most literal sense. 

Hope and Freedom

CoBrA grew out of an uncertain period in which the balance of the world at a global level had to be restored and deep wounds healed. The parallels to our own time and current situation seem striking in many respects: In a dark time defined by constraints and restrictions, the colourful energy explosion that CoBrA art represents is a welcome reminder that art, mobility and freedom are privileges we cannot take for granted and worth fighting for.

Even More CoBrA

At the final Live Auction of the year in Copenhagen, "The Spirit of 48" stands as the highlight together with another of Jorn's works: the oil painting "Sermo rusticus" from 1969. But there are several other standard-bearers of the group represented, such as Anton Rooskens with the painting "Indiaanse Motieven" (Indian Motifs) from 1950, Karel Appel with "Têtes partoute" (Faces Everywhere) from 1959 and Ejler Bille with an early work from Gudhjem on Bornholm, which was made before CoBrA existed but still anticipates the characteristic shared idiom with the imaginative, abstract figures.

Please note: The celebration of CoBrA will hit our Online Auctions first, where we can present works by artists associated with the group on Tuesday 1 December at 8 pm

Ejler Bille: Untitled (1946). Signed. Oil on canvas. 131 x 109 cm. Estimate: DKK 800,000-1,000,000.

Live Auction

Modern Art

8 - 9 December

For further information, please contact:

Niels Raben: +45 8818 1181 ·

Niels Boe Hauggaard: +45 8818 1182 ·

Kathrine Eriksen: +45 8818 1184 ·

Peter Beck (Aarhus): +45 8818 1186 ·