Constant Nieuwenhuys-Après nous la liberté, 1949

Après nous la Liberté

x 107,0cm
oil paint
Collection Tate Modern London, UK

This work was painted in Amsterdam and its original title was ‘A Nous la Liberté'. In a letter to the compiler dated 6 February 1988 Constant recalled the ‘general mood' from which the painting emerged and explained why the title was later changed:

After the five years of the German Occupation, during which hardly any work of other painters was to be seen, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam organised a large show of contemporary Dutch art, entitled ‘Kunst in vryheid' (Art in freedom). This exhibition was a deception by the lack of any creative freedom - the worst kind of academicism. Shortly after (in 1946) I met Asger Jorn in Paris, who appeared to be a related mind. Our friendship would lead, 2 years later, to the foundation of Cobra. The title of this painting was originally ‘A Nous la Liberté' opposing the false ‘freedom' of the above mentioned exhibition (and what followed after). A few years later, Cobra had fallen apart and many of its former members were classified in museums as ‘experimentals', forming a new ‘style' contradictory to the real aims of the movment - My disappointment about this development led me to change the title to ‘Après Nous la Liberté'. I changed the title to express my doubts about the possibility of ‘free art' in an unfree society, and, at the same time, my hopes for the freedom all men are longing for. *