In Dutch post-war art, the exact representation of visible reality is definitively abandoned by many painters. Color and form are no longer in the service of the recognizable representation, but are independent means of expression. There is room for fantasy and experiment. The experience of the abstract work of art, stripped of reality as a point of reference, has become highly individual.
Demolition and construction
The emergence of abstract art around the First and Second World War seems to be linked to periods of destruction and reconstruction. Committed artists want a new art and a new society. Others look for the essence of things, the deeper reality behind the confusing multiplicity of the visible world. The abstraction, free from artistic traditions and social conventions, offers the opportunity to experiment with means of expression. Kandinsky, lyrical-abstract Orphism, Klee, the École de Paris, Mondrian, but also painters of De Ploeg are examples of this. After 1945, the Experimental Group, CoBrA and a number of young Amsterdam and Hague painters in particular form the face of abstract art in the Netherlands.
The A of CoBrA
In Amsterdam, after 1945, free experimentation is immediately reflected in the work of Karel Appel. He paints colorful human animal creatures and writes to his painter friend Corneille: "You shouldn't belong in a box (...) throw everything overboard". Corneille and Constant are also looking for a new visual language, just like Anton Rooskens, who in 1948 draws inspiration for his compositions from the "spontaneous", "primitive" art of South America and Africa. In 1948 they set up "The Experimental Group" together. Theo Wolvecamp and Eugène Brands join, as do Lucebert. At the end of 1948 Constant, Corneille and Appel are co-founders of the CoBrA group. And although the painters who belong to it soon go their separate ways - CoBrA is disbanded in 1951 - what binds them together is a common language: experimental, spontaneous and infinitely versatile in shape and color.
For many artists, CoBrA was the inspiration to go their own way. Pieter Defesche, a member of the Amsterdam Limburgers, studied at the Amsterdam Rijksacademie shortly after the war. He absorbs the abstract expressionism of the CoBrA painters in lyrical compositions with the warm colors of the earth and the deep blues of the night. And a number of painters from The Hague, usually more modest than the Amsterdam painters, are seen as kindred spirits of CoBrA. Jan Roëde, for example, exhibits spontaneous work in 1948 that resembles children's drawings. He is asked to join the group, but he distances himself from the noise they are making. He develops his style in The Hague, in peace. Colors come first, then the shape. "I paint and don't know what it's going to be," he once said; with which he connects with Appel and his followers.