Key Stage 3

Richard Kendal, (2009) © National Portrait Gallery
Richard Kendal, (2009)
© National Portrait Gallery

Discussion of portraits is followed by a practical activity looking at historical significance as a key concept. Students work in small groups and report their findings back to the whole class. The historical discussion can be also followed by optional practical art activities. For additional historical topics, please see our cross-curricular sessions which can be given a stronger historical focus by choosing the history activity outlined. This year we have introductory talks to exhibitions on the First World War and on Elizabethan times. Free CPD for teachers is also available.

Gallery session:

  • 1 hour or 90 minutes with activity
  • Maximum 30 students

Lecture Theatre session:

  • 1 hour
  • Maximum 138 students

We can provide historical discussion sessions in the following periods - portraits can be tailored to suit your curriculum requirements.


A discussion of four to six key portraits as historical evidence, including iconic images of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Please specify when booking and we can tailor the session towards early Tudor or Elizabethan portraiture.


A discussion focusing on four to six key portraits as historical evidence. Please specify when booking if you wish the session to be tailored towards Elizabethan portraiture in general or on the changing image of Queen Elizabeth I (this may be partly taught in the Lecture Theatre).


Focusing on key portraits including iconic works by Van Dyck which were then copied and adapted for Cromwell and the Parliamentarians, this session focuses on both sides of the Civil War and the decades preceding it. The emphasis is on questioning the reliability of these images as historical sources.

Georgians and Regency 

Examines the large scale group portraits the Reformed House of Commons in 1833 and the Anti-Slavery Convention, as well as individual portraits of key literary and scientific figures such as Wordsworth and Jenner.


Examines how key images, including of Queen Victoria, were constructed to give powerful propaganda messages about Britain and its relationship with the wider world.