I was delighted when The Prince’s Drawing Clubs, part of The Prince’s Drawing School, approached the Gallery and asked if they could come and draw the Van Dyck self-portrait, which is currently on display in Room 15 as part of our fundraising campaign to keep the portrait in the UK.

The Prince’s Drawing Clubs is an outreach programme providing free mentoring and tuition in drawing for state-educated children aged 10-18 years. The Clubs were set up by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2007 and there are now ten across London and one in Glasgow.

Eighteen students visited the Gallery after a preparatory session where they created self-portraits by feeling their own facial features. The group were given an introduction by Sarah Birt, Visitor Services Assistant, who showed them a self-portrait painted by Van Dyck when he was a teenager.  Sarah also encouraged them to think about how the artist was trying to show himself including his choice of angle, clothing and colours and to look at his marvellous moustache!  The students then spent time sketching the portrait and, for comparison, a more contemporary self-portrait by Graham Sutherland in Room 32.


The drawings produced were brilliant, some students concentrated on his facial expression, Maya aged 11 liked ‘the contrast between his face and the background’ and others were fascinated with the stunning gold frame, Daniel aged 11 said ‘I liked drawing the frame which had great contrasts with the darks and lights’. Isabella aged 12 commented that ‘it was inspirational because the painting has lots of detail and is so realistic.’


After sharing time with the students I am even more determined  that we are successful in our campaign and raise the necessary funds to keep the painting on public display, so many more young people across the country can be inspired by this wonderful masterpiece. If you would like to support us please visit www.savevandyck.org or text VANDYCK to 70800 to give £5.

Find out more about the Prince’s Drawing Clubs

Find out more about the Gallery’s free art activities for children and young people 

All photographs © Jorge Hererra except for photographs of children’s artwork, which are © The Prince’s Drawing School.

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