We offer a range of facilities and events for blind and partially sighted visitors, to help you get more from the paintings.
Introduction to the gallery
Welcome to the National Gallery.
Here you will find the national collection of western European paintings from around 1250 to 1900.
It includes masterpieces by many great European Artists with more than a thousand paintings on display.
The address is The National Gallery, Trafalgar square, London, WC2N 5DN
Opening times are 10am to 6pm daily and a late opening on Friday until 9pm.
Closed 24th to 26th December and 1st of January.
Admission to the collection is free.
For special exhibitions held in the Sainsbury Wing there is a charge. Tickets can be purchased on the day in the gallery, online or in advance by telephone.
Disabled visitors are eligible for a discount on exhibition tickets and may bring an escort free of charge.
For visitors with mobility access requirements:
There is one off-street parking space for badge holders in Orange Street. Advance booking only on 020 7747 2885. Designated parking bays for badge holder in St Martin’s street, behind the Sainsbury wing, give level access to the entrance.
Four entrances have level access: the Getty, the Sainsbury Wing, National Café and Education Centre entrances. The main entrance, the Portico entrance, is not accessible due to the restrictions of being a Grade I listed building.
Wheelchairs are available at the Getty Entrance on level 0, the Sainsbury Wing cloakroom on level 0 and the Education Centre (which is at street level). The Sainsbury Wing Theatre has spaces for wheelchairs, ramp access to the front of the theatre is on Level -2.
Seating is available around the gallery, there are also a small number of stools for Access requirements that may be requested at the Information desks and Sainsbury Wing cloakroom and you are welcome to bring a folding stool. Assistance dogs are welcome.
For blind and partially sighted visitors:
We provide large print versions of the floor plan and large-print labels for each painting.
We have Descriptive Folders for some of the paintings, which include descriptive information in large print and Braille, enlarged photographic reproduction of sections of paintings and tactile line diagrams.
Descriptive guided tours of temporary exhibitions and the collection can be booked four weeks in advance.
We also run an exciting monthly verbal description sessions called Art Through Words for blind and partially sighted visitors.
If you would like to discuss access requirements further, please call 020 7747 2885.
We provide Braille information. There are also large print versions of the floorplan for partially sighted visitors.
You can order these in advance for collection on the day. Phone: 020 7747 2885.
Descriptive Folders are available at the Portico Information Desk and can be made available at other desks on request, prior to, or during visits. These are free to use, but must be returned.
Each folder focuses on two paintings including descriptive text and interpretation in either large print (featuring photographic reproductions of close-up sections of the painting) or Braille (including tactile images).
The paintings featured include:
- John Constable, The Hay Wain, 1821, and Vincent van Gogh, Sunflowers, 1888
- Hans Holbein the Younger, The Ambassadors, 1533, and Paolo Veronese, The Family of Darius before Alexander, 1565-7
- Titian, The Death of Actaeon, 1559-75, and Willem Kalf, Still Life with Drinking Horn, 1653
Presenter: Art Through Words is the Gallery’s programme for blind and partially sighted visitors. Each month, interactive description sessions are scheduled for adult visitors. Visitors can receive information about forthcoming events in alternative formats including Braille and large print. During sessions, a skilled Gallery lecturer gives a detailed description of a focus painting. The lecturer enables visitors to locate specific areas in the painting through guided orientation. The lecturer systematically describes specific details in the painting such as the clothing of the sitters within a portrait, the cut of the garments and the materials used.
Lecturer: ... a dagger, which is in the middle of the painting about four inches in from the right...
Presenter: Visitor interaction and discussion are always encouraged.
Visitor: Is it imaginary?
Lecturer: Well, I think two things here ... I think they would have set up the whole composition and then, back in the studio, Holbein would have painted at his leisure the objects that are on the two shelves.
Presenter: Sessions take place in a well lit, comfortable, quiet room with large tables, allowing visitors to explore poster-size reproductions of the focus painting. Enlarged reproductions of small details within the painting are used to further enrich the description. Art Through Words concludes with a visit to explore the original painting in the Gallery. The lecturer describes the space, ways in which the painting is displayed and framed, and continues valuable discussion with the group. Visitors often comment on the awe and wonder factor of being in the presence of the ‘real thing’.
Art Through Words sessions have been developed following detailed focus group consultation. Multisensory elements are included to further enrich interpretation. For example, music and song are regularly incorporated within sessions.
[Singers sing an old German hymn]
Here we see details from a session using Hans Holbein’s ’The Ambassadors’. The painting demonstrates the wealth and splendour of the French Ambassador, Jean de Dinteville as he visits the court of Henry VIII in 1533. He is shown with his friend, the Bishop of Lavaur, Georges de Selve. As well as indicating that both men are well travelled, wealthy and erudite scholars, the objects may also have symbolic meaning.
Lecturer: So we've got division, we've got dividers, we've got the broken string making disharmony, all of it looking as though it has an allusion to the break effected by Henry VIII with the Church in Rome in 1533.
Singers: Pastime with good company, I love, and shall until I die.
Presenter: Music and song from the Tudor court and tavern are provided by specialist historians. This song, ’Pastime with Good Company’, was attributed to a young, vigorous, handsome Henry VIII, in the Court Song Book, published in 1520.
Singers: All goodly sport, for my comfort, who shall me let?
Presenter: This makes an enjoyable contrast to the bawdy tavern songs of Tudor soldiers and sailors.
Singers: Lately come forth of the low country, with never a penny of money. Fa la la la lantido dilly.
Presenter: Blind and partially sighted visitors can request private tours of temporary exhibitions or of the permanent collection and listen to a range of audio guides inspired by the collection. Some of the audio guides explore a modern sound interpretation of the collection.
[Sound montage of the sea, seagulls and voices from an audio guide]
Visitors can also enjoy a descriptive tour of favourite paintings. The ’Favourite Paintings’ booklets include tactile raised line drawings, Braille and written transcriptions in large print, to further enjoyment for blind and partially sighted visitors and their companions visiting the collection. Large print labels are also available within the permanent collection and for temporary exhibitions.
We run exciting verbal description sessions on the paintings for blind and partially sighted visitors. See what's on and book a place:
The collection of paintings is on level 2 of the building and entrance is free for everyone. Assistance dogs are welcome
Exhibitions are held in the Sainsbury Wing on Level −2 and in various rooms in the main building. We provide:
- Audio guides for temporary exhibitions and the collection
- Water for assistance dogs
- Large-print information (black on white) about each painting
- You can order large print information about the paintings in advance, for collection on the day.
Phone: 020 7747 2885
- Tactile line diagrams and Braille interpretation of paintings
Explore the National Gallery with Jacqueline Wilson
Living Paintings’s ‘Touch to See: Painting Stories’ thermoform and audio book, for 7–11 years, takes a tour of selected works in the National Gallery. Narrated by Dame Jacqueline Wilson, the book also includes a trip behind-the-scenes with Gallery staff.
Borrow your copy from Living Paintings now [External link]