Appelbee studied art in London first at Goldsmiths' College and then at the Royal College of Art, completing his studies in 1938. This small still life picture was acquired by the Tate Gallery in 1940, the year Appelbee began his six years of service in the Army. As well as 'The King Crab' the artist painted a number of sea creatures in the 1930s, including a lobster and fish. Here the crab is barely contained within the picture. Its size is emphasised by the way it dominates the surface of the canvas. The crab's angular legs and claws are mirrored by the hard-edge treatment of the table and paper on which it rests.