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.

Hospital Programme

Welcome to our Hospital Programme

The National Portrait Gallery works in partnership with London hospitals to promote health and wellbeing through creative arts programming. 

We work in close collaboration with play therapists, nursing staff and hospital school teachers to ensure that our programming is relevant, challenging and inspirational.

With over ten year’s expertise in working in clinical settings, our team of artists deliver high quality participatory art workshops for young people and their families. Our programme ensures our Collection is far-reaching, providing arts engagement for those young people who are undergoing hospital treatment. It is a chance to discover people, past and present who contribute to the rich identity and diversity of Britain. The Gallery is committed to encouraging social, emotional and physical wellbeing through our arts engagement partnership with hospitals. Over 15,000 young people and their families have participated in the programme to date.

Latest News

Playful Portraits: February Half-Term Workshops across our 4 partner hospitals

New! Gallery Hospital Programme supported by Delancey

We are delighted to announce our continued collaboration with London’s children’s hospitals having secured major funding for three years from Delancey, a real estate investment and advisory company.

The new funding will enable the Gallery to increase its commitment to access to the arts in London’s children’s hospitals by providing free arts activities. The programme includes Artist-led creative workshops across our four hospital partners:

  • Evelina London Children’s Hospital at St Thomas’s Hospital
  • Great Ormond Street Hospital
  • The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel
  • Newham University Hospital

Media coverage

Evening Standard news story on Evelina Children's Hospital activity book

South London Press Evelina Children's activity book launch

February Half-Term saw hospital wards and the atrium turn into a feast of art activity

Encouraging well-being is at the heart of all of our art activities with children and their families. One young participant told us;
‘I feel happy and relaxed. I enjoy doing this activity’.

A parent of a patient commented during our visit;
‘My child enjoyed the drawing and cutting different shapes. This kept her busy and took the attention away from her pain and being in hospital’.

With patients and their families we explored the world of Performance & Performers. Captivating sitters and artists inspired children to create clay sculptures, investigate surgical gloves, and make friendship paper chains, play with the concepts of light and dark, creating 3-D mini-theatres. Children, their families, nurses and hospital staff immersed themselves in the world of actors, dancers, sports personalities and artists.

‘Having the National Portrait Gallery at Newham hospital, Rainbow centre is always great. The children really enjoyed themselves and produced some fantastic work. It’s always lovely to have you guys here as it keeps the children occupied and busy and not constantly calling the nurses for things.’ (Healthcare Play Specialist)

Our next programme of Playful Portraits workshops will take place in the Easter Holidays across our four partner hospitals.

Hospital Holiday Activity Books and Resources

Instrumental to our aim of reaching as many young people as we can in our partner hospitals is to create inspirational resources for young people. The National Portrait Gallery is committed to help work towards common goals between the arts and medical sector of health and wellbeing during a hospital stay.

We give out activity books with colouring pencils and are currently developing new resources. Through these exciting, humorous and innovative activity books and resources families are given direct access to arts and culture.

Current Resources available:

My Magical Journeys

My Magical Journeys

2017-18 My Magical Journeys, a specially commissioned activity book of portraits and illustrations inspired by their favourite writers such as Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, Douglas Adams and Malorie Blackman.

Magical Journeys activity books were made possible with thanks to funding from DIL Trust UK and the Aman Foundation UK.

Download PDF (11.1mb)

My Superheroes

My Superheroes activity books were made possible with funding from the 29th May 1961 Charitable Trust, CHK Charities Limited, PF Charitable Trust and the Gallery’s own superhero staff who ran the 2012 London Marathon to help raise funds.

Download PDF (4.15mb)

Partnership Working

Guidance and Networking opportunities for Museums, Galleries and Hospitals

In 2018 we will launch our new phase of Hospital programming. One of our aims in this new phase is to develop a professional network forging views from across the health sector and artist practitioners in Museums, Galleries and Heritage sector. We aim to evaluate, disseminate good practice and promote exciting, innovative ways of working in arts and health for young people using our joint expertise across sectors. If you are interested in joining this network please contact the Participation Project Manager at the National Portrait Gallery.

Online Resources and Guidance for Arts Practitioners

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry Report Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing

National Alliance for Arts Health and Wellbeing: a voice and resource for arts and health activity.

London Arts in Health Forum is a membership organisation which aims to develop the role of culture in wellbeing and to promote and support arts in health activity across London and nationally.

National Portrait Gallery’s Working with Hospital Schools: A Practical Toolkit 2008

**Please note if using this resource**

Some of the language described in this resource is now out of date but it still provides some practical ideas for creating arts programming in a hospital setting. We are looking to provide an updated toolkit in the near future.

The framework was developed in 2008 after a one-year creative project working in partnership with Evelina Hospital School, The Children’s Hospital School at Great Ormond Street Hospital, St Mary’s Hospital School and University College London Hospital School. The project responded to the Gallery's Pop Art Portraits exhibition with the young people working together with artists and animators to create and animate their own pop-art portraits. This toolkit, evaluates the project approach and offers advice, notes and activities.

Working with Hospital Schools: A Practical Toolkit

Download the PDF (724kb

Pop-Art Portraits animation

Watch a short animated film showcasing the pop-art portraits created by the young people

Online Resources for young people in Hospitals

We have a range of online resources for you to use that complement our hospital programme.

Explore our interactive classroom based activities