Cobra was a post-World War II European avant-garde movement. The name was derived from the initials of the members' home cities: Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam. Copenhagen is the head, Brussels is the body, and Amsterdam is the tail of the Cobra.
The group's founders included Asger Jorn, the Dutch painter Constant, the Belgian poet Christian Dotremont and the painters Pierre Alechinsky, Karel Appel, Corneille and Carl-Henning Pedersen. Later on the group was expanded substantially.
In a Europe devastated by war, artists were eager to join forces, pool their thoughts and react to the inhumanity of a civilization based on reason and science. Cobra had a distinctive political and social dimension based on a criticism of the Cold War society of their day.
Cobra was formed from an amalgamation of the Dutch group Reflex, the Danish group Host and the Belgian Revolutionary Surrealist Group. Their fundamental values were nonconformity and spontaneity. Their inspiration was children's drawings, the alienated and folk art, motifs from Nordic mythology, Marxism. They rejected erudite art and all official art events. They sought to express combination of the Surrealist unconscious with the romantic forces of nature but unlike the former group they felt an abstract idiom better served that purpose. They were primary distinguished by a semiabstract expressive paintings style with brilliant color, violent brushwork, and distorted human figures.
Cobra was a milestone in the development of European Abstract Expressionism and was very similar to American Action Painting.