The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

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Subjects and themes

To help visitors explore the Gallery's collections every portrait digitised is keyworded at the Gallery by subject, with five main categories: accessory, activity, dress, genre and theme. Some individual keywords in each category are illustrated with a selection of portraits below. To explore the full list of keywords in each category and the full set of portraits keyworded in each category, go to the Subjects and Themes section under Portrait in Advanced Search.


Objects and other elements within the portrait (examples: art, books, clocks, flowers, maps, mirrors, pets and textiles).

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What sitters are doing (examples: dancing, eating and drinking, making art and music, reading, sleeping and writing).

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What sitters are wearing and holding (examples: glasses, fans, gloves, hats, jewellery, umbrellas).

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Portraiture types (examples: self-portraits, group portraits, portraits of children and families, nudes, weddings).

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Overarching themes (examples: diversity, events and occasions, artists in their studios, words and inscriptions, gardens).

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Do, draw and make!

Do, draw and make!

From building dens to food faces – enjoy our Playful Portraits activities and find out about some brilliant people!

Get Creative

Healthcare Heroes

Activities for children and families inspired by three healthcare heroes from our Collection.

Learn together

Learning resources

Downloadable and web based resources to support learning at home linked to art, history, citizenship and literacy.

Get learning