Years 3 to 6

Our engaging Gallery based sessions are designed to raise pupils’ curiosity and build their confidence in looking at and responding to portraiture.  Discussion-based activities are designed to develop pupils’ critical thinking and enquiry skills. Drawing activities support learning in the sessions.

90 minutes – unless otherwise stated
One class, maximum 30 pupils
All materials are provided


Sir Joshua Reynolds
by Sir Joshua Reynolds
circa 1747-1749
NPG 41

Getting the Message

Pupils learn how to ‘read’ a portrait. Pupils analyse the artist’s creative choices in portraying the personality and life of the sitter in a historic portrait through pose, setting and props. Pupils apply their knowledge of how a composition can convey a message by creating their own drawing.

Years 3 to 4: Regency portraits
Years 5 to 6: Reynolds, Gainsborough and their contemporaries

Self- Portraits

Looking at historic and contemporary self-portraits, pupils discover how artists depict themselves through different techniques, styles and media.  Pupils learn key portraiture skills in a series of short drawing tasks, and learn how to apply an artist’s critical and visual thinking to key features of a portrait. Pupils will learn with a range of portraiture sketching techniques which can then be further developed back in the classroom into their own self-portrait.

Contemporary Styles

In the modern and contemporary Galleries, pupils discover the range of modern portraiture styles and techniques used by artists. The session will build pupils’ confidence in looking at and responding to modern portraits through discussion and drawing.

Queen Mary I
by Master John
NPG 428

NEW – Questioning the Tudors

Starting with portraits of key Tudor personalities, pupils consider the importance of portraits as evidence and how they inform our current thinking about the Tudor period. Pupils will learn how to think like a Historian by asking key questions and giving supporting evidence for their ideas. Pupils will then apply and extend their skills to a portrait in another historic period.

**This session is only suitable for classes who already have some initial knowledge of the Tudor period. It does not include a drawing activity**


NEW - The Real Tudors Workshop

How were Tudor portraits made? What was the Elizabethan idea of beauty? What evidence tells us this? Pupils learn about beauty, costumes, colour and Tudor methods of making a portrait through a hands-on session in the Gallery and Education Studio spaces.

Sessions are 2 hours long, running from  12.30 – 14.30 on the following Mondays:

17 November 2014 Fully Booked
1 December 2014 Fully Booked
26 January 2015 Fully Booked
9 February 2015 Fully Booked

English / Literacy

Significant Victorians

Investigate the lives and experiences of significant individuals from Victorian Britain. Pupils investigate and compare portraits of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, as well as other personalities, for example Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, and writers, considering how their personality and life experiences were portrayed.



Rudyard Kipling
by Sir Philip Burne-Jones, 2nd Bt
NPG 1863

English / Literacy

Lives of Authors from the Past

Pupils learn about the lives of famous writers through their portraits and consider how the time they lived in influenced their stories. Pupils examine the portraits and consider what the portraits tell us about the authors’ lives and their work.

Focus authors can be Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Beatrix Potter.

This session supports classroom work and pre- or post-visit reading of books by focus authors.

Creative Storymaking: Portraits come alive

Through the use of tableaux, drama and dialogue, pupils use portraits of interesting people with adventurous and surprising lives as a springboard for their own imaginative open-ended approaches to oral storymaking.




Sing a Portrait

National Portrait Gallery and English Touring Opera team up to use portraits as a springboard to inspire a new musical composition. Exploring one portrait in detail , pupils follow their imagination and interest to create and perform a unique composition in front of the portrait that inspired their music.

10.30 to 14.30 with a break for lunch (not provided)

One class, maximum 30 pupils

Fee payable to English Touring Opera

For more details on SIng a Portrait, including costs, and all bookings please telephone English Touring Opera on 020 7833 2555 / talia.lash@englishtouringopera.org.uk

Image banner: Photograph Marysa Dowling ©National Portrait Gallery, London