Karel Appel


Karel Appel: Elementary/Middle

  • Joan Miro
  • Karel Appel


Overview: By studying the art and style of Karel Appel students will learn about the use of color and the philosophy of the Cobra art movement.  Students will then create a colorful work of art (painting or drawing) in the style of the Cobra Movement.

Age Group: Grades 3 – 8

State Standards:

Visual Arts

Standard 1: Students perceive and respond to works of art, objects in nature, events, and the environment.  They also use the vocabulary of the visual arts to express their observations.

Standard 2: Students apply artistic processes and skills, using a variety of media to communicate meaning and intent in original works of art.

Standard 3: Students analyze the role and development of the visual arts in past and present cultures throughout the world, noting human diversity as it relates to the visual arts and artists.

Length of Lesson:

One 60-120 minute lesson


Students will be able to:

  • Define the following terms: color, shape, form, Cobra art movement
  • Analyze a work of art in terms of the artist’s use of these elements
  • Discuss the Cobra art movement and its basic components
  • Relate cultural influences and historical elements to the artwork that students view
  • Create colorful, spontaneous drawings or paintings in the style of Karel Appel


  • Examples of artwork by Karel Appel
  • Paper
  • Black marker/fine liner
  • Colored pencils/markers/pastels/watercolor paints


    • Introduce students to the art and style of Appel, engaging them in discussion about his work and use of experimentation/spontaneity, color, and childlike imagery in his artwork.
    • Karel Appel:
      • Born in 1921, Appel was a Dutch painter, sculptor, and poet, and one of the founders of the Cobra Art Movement
      • Cobra Art Movement: COBRA or CoBrA was a European avant-garde movement active from 1948-51.
      •  The name was coined in 1948 by Christian Dotremont from the initials of the members’ home cities: Copenhangen, Brussels, and Amsterdam. Formed with a unifying doctrine of complete freedom of color and form.  The movement was rooted in spontaneity and experiment; the COBRA artists drew from children’s drawings as inspiration and also the work of Joan Miró (see example below).
      • Show the following works:
      • Joan Miró, Ubu Roi, 1966
        • Surrealist work created to illustrate the tale of Ubu Roi by playwright Alfred Jarry. A comical take on Shakespeare’s Macbeth in which Pere Ubu murders a royal family, ascends to power, and flees to exile.
      • Karel Appel, Personnages, 1973
      • Karel Appel, Composition I, 1970
      • Karel Appel, Composition II, 1970
        • Epitome of COBRA work – spontaneity of color and form; no set structure and whimsical/playful in expression
  • Discuss the history of these works (Miro as influential of Appel).
    • Compare and contrast the artists’ use of color and form. How are these works similar? How are they different?
    • Which works do the students like better and why?
  • Instruct students to draw/paint organic shapes on their sheets with different colors, making sure that the whole sheet is full.
  • After drying (if painting), take a black marker or fine liner and search for faces, animals, or objects in your shapes.
  • Outline them and add details to recognize your objects or faces.





 Joan MiroUbu Roi
 Karel AppelPersonnages
 Karel AppelComposition I
 Karel AppelComposition II
Raisonne Title

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