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

FREE (unless otherwise stated) Cancellation and non-attendance charges apply. See terms and conditions

(John) Peter Warren Cochrane, by (Gordon) Howard Eliot Hodgkin, 1962 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

(John) Peter Warren Cochrane
by (Gordon) Howard Eliot Hodgkin
NPG 6888

NEW - Self- Portraits

How have artists chosen to represent themselves from the past to the present day? What are the challenges of self-representation? Pupils learn to think like an artist considering different techniques, styles and media. A series of short drawing tasks help pupils apply an artist’s creative and critical thinking collecting ideas which can be further developed back in the classroom.

NEW – Modern and Contemporary - Colour, Expression, Form

How is colour expression and form used in modern and contemporary portraiture? Looking at developments in use of media pupils learn to ‘think like an artist’ considering their critical and creative choices in conveying the life of the sitter. Raise your pupils’ curiosity confidence in looking at and responding to portraits through questioning, discussion and a series of short drawing tasks that can be further developed back in the classroom.

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, gesture, setting and props. Pupils apply their knowledge of how composition and symbols can convey a message in a series of drawing exercises.

Years 3 to 4: Regency portraits
Years 5 to 6: Reynolds and his contemporaries

King Henry VIII, by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist, circa 1520 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

King Henry VIII
by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artist
circa 1520
NPG 4690

Questioning the Tudors

What purpose did portraits serve in Tudor times? How were they made and who for? What information do they tell us about the past? Starting with portraits of key Tudor personalities, pupils consider the importance of portraits as evidence. Pupils develop their historical enquiry, questioning and reasoning skills learning how to ‘think like a Historian’ building confidence in asking key questions and giving supporting evidence for their ideas.

**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 evidence tells us this? How does the Gallery conserve them? Pupils learn about Tudor methods of making a portrait and how the Gallery cares for the oldest part of the collection in this hands-on session in the Gallery and Education Studio spaces.

Sessions are 2.5 hours, available 10.00 – 12.30 on the following Wednesdays:

Wed 14 October 2015 – Fully Booked
Wed 4 November 2015 – Fully Booked
Wed 10 February 2016 – Fully Booked
Wed 16 March 2016 – Fully Booked
Wed 20 April 2016 – Fully Booked
Wed 4 May 2016

Emmeline Pankhurst, by Georgina Agnes Brackenbury, 1927 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Emmeline Pankhurst
by Georgina Agnes Brackenbury
NPG 2360

NEW - Pioneering Women (Y5 + Y6)

Why are there so few women in the National Portrait Gallery Collection? What challenges have women faced and overcome? What have the women on display achieved that is inspirational? Looking at a series of portraits of pioneering women pupils consider their achievements and discuss the importance that portraiture has to play in maintaining the legacy of their achievements both in the past and the present day.

Session available on Thursdays only.

NEW - Power and portraits

 Looking at key portraits of powerful people over time – Monarchs, Politicians, Celebrities - pupils explore the changing nature of power and the role portraiture plays in communicating power .

Session available on Tuesdays only.

NEW - How did Victorians see themselves?

Come and explore the Victorian galleries and consider how the Victorians viewed their world. What are the similarities and differences between modern day visitors? Whose achievements did Victorians celebrate and why? What impact did these people have on our world today? Pupils investigate the lives and experiences of significant individuals from Victorian Britain considering how their personality and life experiences are portrayed.

Salman Rushdie (

Salman Rushdie ('The Moor')
by Bhupen Khakhar
NPG 6352

NEW - How do we see ourselves?

How do we see ourselves? How do we see others? How do we see the world around us? Pupils consider aspects of their own identity looking at ways in which image and identity form each other. Pupils collect ideas exploring how their community can be portrayed with in portraiture with signs, symbols, colour and form. Session available on the following Thursdays only.

Thurs 1 October 10.30 – 12.00 - Fully Booked
Thurs 15 October 10.30 – 12.00 - Fully Booked
Thurs 12 November 10.30 – 12.00 - Fully Booked
Thurs 26 November 10.30 – 12.00
Thurs 4 February 2016 10.30 – 12.00  / 13.00 – 14.30 - Fully Booked / Fully Booked
Thurs 10 March 2016 10.30 – 12.00  / 13.00 – 14.30
Thurs 9 June 2016 13.00 – 14.30
Thurs 16 June 2016 13.00 – 14.30
Thurs 23 June 2016 13.00 – 14.30
Thurs 30 June 2016 13.00 – 14.30

NEW - BIG DRAW Exploring Drawing

Celebrate the BIG DRAW bring your pupils on Artist led drawing sessions that take place in the Gallery spaces. Pupils explore a range of drawing and mark making techniques. Learning traditional and experimental approaches to expression, emotion, gaze, pose, gesture. This drawing workshop builds pupils’ confidence in observational drawing and responding creatively to portraits. 1.5 hours. Session available on the following Tuesdays only.

Tue 13 October 10.30 – 12.00 - Fully Booked
Tue 20 October 10.30 – 12.00 - Fully Booked

This event is part of The Big Draw, Campaign for Drawing

NEW – Making Faces

How can you make a 2D image into a 3D portrait? Pupils explore a range of experimental making techniques in this artist-led 3D making sessions. Learning experimental and abstract approaches to creating expression, emotion, gaze, pose, gesture in 3D. Session takes place in front of portraits in the Gallery spaces. 1.5 hours Session available on the following Fridays only.

Fri 6 Nov 10.30 – 12.00 - Fully Booked
Fri 27 Nov 10.30 – 12.00 - Fully Booked
Fri 22 Jan 10.30 – 12.00
Fri 5 Feb 10.30 – 12.00
Fri 20 May 10.30 -12.00
Fri 8 July 10.30 – 12.00

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.

Frank Auerbach, by Frank Auerbach, 1994-2001 - NPG  - © Frank Auerbach / Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd / National Portrait Gallery, London

Frank Auerbach
by Frank Auerbach
NPG 6611

NEW- BIG DRAW ‘Can I be a portrait artist?’
Wednesday 7 October
10.30 – 12.30


Capacity 120 pupils
£40 per class (max 30 pupils)

Kick start The Big Draw in your school by taking part in our ‘Can I be a portrait artist?’ morning. Working with a portrait artist and a children’s illustrator pupils experiment with key portraiture skills in the lecture theatre. Pupils have the chance to meet a children’s illustrator and discover how they found their own unique drawing style and discover tips for how they might start to develop their own. Lecture theatre based drawing session (approx 60 mins) leads on to structured self-guided session of the Gallery spaces.

This event is part of The Big Draw, Campaign for Drawing


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)

Sessions available on the following dates only

Mon 21 September 2015
Tues 22 September 2015
Weds 23 September2015

Tues 24 May 2016
Wed 25 May 2016
Thurs 26 May 2016

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