Skip to main content

Ageing Creatively with the National Gallery

Issued: November 2009


An innovative art project developed by the National Gallery is giving a group of stroke survivors the chance to get their creative juices flowing.

Ageing Creatively is an outreach programme that aims to make it possible for people who may be isolated, vulnerable or unable to visit the Gallery independently, to access and enjoy the collection.

During November, members of the Greenhill Aphasia Group will take part in four outreach workshops at the Greenhill Centre in Newham. Aphasia is a difficulty speaking or understanding speech, reading or writing. It occurs following damage to the brain and is most common after a stroke.

Participants will work with artist Viyki Turnbull to create still-life drawings and paintings.

For this project – titled 'The Real and Unreal' – the group will look at images of still-life paintings in the National Gallery’s permanent collection and will compare and contrast the different approaches that artists have taken.

Using acrylic paint on canvas, participants will experiment with techniques used by 17th-century painters and will explore how these artists used composition and tone to create ‘ideal’ and symbolic still-life paintings.

Participants will then move on to consider paintings made 250 years later and will experiment with techniques that emphasise the ‘real’ qualities of objects such as texture and weight.

The group will focus on a number of still-life paintings, including work by Jan Jansz. Treck, Willem Kalf, Harmen Steenwyck, Paul Gauguin and Gustave Courbet.

There are many other Ageing Creatively projects planned for other parts of the UK over the coming months. This follows the success of similar projects delivered in Great Yarmouth and London last year.

National Gallery Outreach Officer, Emma Rehm, explained the motivation behind the project:

“Participatory projects which use art as their starting point bring clear benefits for people with disabilities in terms of physical stimulation, sociability, creativity and enjoyment, and this can have a positive effect on health and general well-being. Participants will be able to share their thoughts and use the National Gallery paintings as inspiration for their own work.”

Newham Council’s Executive Member for Health, Councillor Clive Furness, said:

“When people suffer a serious or debilitating condition, there is the fear that their useful and creative life is at an end. Projects like this enable people to discover and develop new skills, and to do so in the company of a group of friends.

“Newham Council is committed to giving all residents the best opportunities to lead active and engaging lives and this is an excellent example of the use of art to stimulate and encourage people who suffer with aphasia.” 


Outreach at the National Gallery

As part of its wider strategic objective to provide access to the collection, the National Gallery is committed to finding imaginative and illuminating ways to nurture interest in its collection among a wide and diverse public.

The Gallery’s outreach programme plays an intrinsic role in delivering this objective. Outreach projects are targeted at key community groups and are designed to creatively engage audiences who may encounter physical, emotional and intellectual barriers to accessing the collection through other educational provision.

By offering a range of interactive outreach projects, the Gallery seeks to ensure that people who may have traditionally felt excluded are encouraged to experience and respond to the National Gallery Collection.
Through its outreach programme the Gallery has developed partnerships with both London-based and regional community groups, and broadly aims to support social and cultural inclusion for people of all ages from a diverse range of backgrounds.

All projects take as their starting point close observation and discussion of paintings from the National Gallery’s collection. The scope and theme of each project is tailored to the specific needs and interests of each participant group.

Projects are delivered by freelance artists and lecturers, and workshops take place either in the Gallery or at a range of offsite venues. These projects provide opportunities for participants to build knowledge, learn new practical and interpersonal skills, develop confidence and explore their own creativity.

The National Gallery is committed to maintaining and developing sustainable outreach programmes as we believe that everyone – regardless of age or background – is entitled to experience, enjoy and be inspired by the paintings in the collection.

Back to press releases