Expressionism Portraits: Alexei Jawlensky inspired- Grade Prep art lesson

This art lesson is suitable for Prep students (adaptable to Year 1 & 2) and I loved the way the artworks turned out. The use of colour is stunning! It will take 2-3 lessons depending on the class time allotment. I have hour lessons, so two and a bit of the next lesson gave enough time to discuss, explore, reflect and share.

Alexei Jawlensky (born 1864, died 1941) was a Russian Expressionist painter, (moved to Germany in 1896 and was a founding member of the New Munich Artist’s Association.) He is known mostly for his portrait art of heads and the use of bold, contrasting colours and strong directional brushstrokes.

The students viewed artworks by Jawlensky, describing what they saw, discussing use of colour, style of art, feelings conveyed.

‘Head’ 1910 by Alexei Jawlensky, pictured left, could be used on a platform like Seesaw for students to record their description and thoughts about the artwork, which can be used to assess the achievement standard at Level F in the Victorian Curriculum: “Students identify and describe the subject matter and ideas in artworks they make and view.”


To learn about Russian artist Alexei Jawlensky so I can use the ideas to make my own portrait.

To identify and describe subject matter and ideas in artworks.

To explore and use techniques and materials with water soluble pastels and chalk pastels to express my observations and ideas.


I can describe an artwork, talking about the subject matter, elements of art, like colours, feelings conveyed.

I can draw a portrait of my face (head and shoulders) using a mirror to copy my features.

I can use bold colours on my self-portrait in the style of Alexei Jawlensky.

I can colour in patches of bold colours with water soluble pastels on my portrait and then use water to brush over to give a painterly effect. I can use chalk pastels to add colour to the background, blending and and smudging.


After discussing and describing Jawlensky’s portraits, students use a mirror to draw their face. To get them to draw their head big enough, I got them to put their hand a bit above the middle of the paper and draw bigger around it. Some students used a face template to trace around to get the size. We look at the position of eyes, being half way on their face, top of ears in line with top of eyes, bottom of nose in line with bottom of ears, etc. Everything is done in pencil first, so they can retry if necessary. We traced over our pencil line with a black ‘Prockey’ marker (permanent and waterproof).

Next lesson, students use chalk pastels on the side edge to gently lay down colour to then blend with fingertips (of course there are always some who get excited and use their whole hand or even both!)

Students then use water soluble pastels to colour contrasting colours (discussing and showing examples of what contrasting colours are) to colour “patches” or areas of colour on the face. Water is brushed is over the pastel areas to smooth out the colour, giving it a painterly effect.

For students at this age, they can reflect on their artwork by sharing with others or describing their piece on a platform like Seesaw.

2 thoughts on “Expressionism Portraits: Alexei Jawlensky inspired- Grade Prep art lesson

  1. Thanks Liz! My teaching art career over 30 years, and I also always explain/refer according to various artists and the way they used colour, texture etc. By the time they leave primary school they have a good knowledge of the principles of art, but also of the many artist and history of art to back them on their way not only to high school., but general comprehension.


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