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Talking paintings tours for Key Stages 3–5

Bring National Gallery paintings to life with a themed tour delivered by a Gallery educator (free for UK schools)

In the Autumn Term 2020 themed tours will be offered online. Schools can choose their theme in the usual way and students will be encouraged to interact and ask questions. Please contact for more information and a booking form.

Talking paintings

Time in the Gallery will be spent discovering paintings that demonstrate the breadth of the collection in terms of time, subject, and technique.

Students will explore changes in painting techniques, styles and subject matter and consider how to look at and understand works of art. They will be encouraged to discuss the paintings in a lively and critical way. 

Pupils will see a maximum of three paintings as part of their facilitated visit (please note that we cannot guarantee that you and your students will see a requested painting as part of your guided visit).

Days: Weekdays (term time only)
Duration: 60 minutes
Group size: 10-25
Cost for UK schools: Free
Cost for overseas groups: £75–100 per group

Please choose one of the following themes: 

General introduction

Students will be introduced to the richness of the nation’s, and therefore their collection. They will practise their observational and visual literacy skills by focusing on three paintings from across the gallery.

Materials, techniques, and processes

Students spend time exploring different materials and processes that are used in the making of paintings, and their different properties. A specialist educator will investigate visually with your students how artists create, for example, perspective, pattern, colour and light.

Please specify upon booking what you would like your session to focus on.

History through art

The National Gallery represents a slice of history (Western European History, 1250–1912), and paintings can be a good and useful record of a different time and place – such as Renaissance paintings, for example. 

The materials artists had available and as a result, the way paintings look, can tell us about changing times. For example, portraits can show us how wealth, power, and status were understood and conveyed, at different times, places and political contexts; changes in fashion and etiquettes can be explored as well as the effects of significant cultural and technological changes such as the coming of the railways and photography.

Art through history: Renaissance, Baroque, The Dutch Golden Age, or Impressionism (please choose one)

Students will be given an overview of their chosen period which will place it in the context of the wider history of art, and help make connections across time. By looking at a small number of paintings in depth, they will explore the style, themes, materials and techniques of the time and how the art of the period fits into broader social and political developments.

Please specify upon booking which area you would like your session to focus on.

Myths and legends

Students explore a selection of myths and legends through the visual language of paintings and gain more of an understanding of the genre. Specialist educators will encourage students to express their opinions and ideas about the stories explored. These narratives never fail to engage young people. They can be a good way of encouraging looking at paintings, but specific links can also be made for students studying Homer and Virgil.

Techniques for visual analysis

This session searches through the collection finding hidden symbols in paintings. Specialist educators guide pupils in looking for clues and making connections between objects in the paintings explored. Students develop their visual literacy whilst building their confidence in describing and discussing what they see.

Religion in art

Students will consider how religious narratives can be represented in paintings – particularly in the comparison of two treatments of the same subject (e.g. The Annunciation).

Pupils will be guided in thinking about how artists represent moral ideas in Christian art – ideas of good and bad behaviour, the demands of family, sacrifice and duty.

Sessions may act as a general investigation or focus on particular festivals such as Christmas or Easter.

Still life, Landscape, or Portraiture (please choose one)

Students will explore chosen genre across the periods covered by the collection, looking at how it has been approached by different artists.  Gallery educators will guide them through the key elements of composition in either still life, landscape or portraiture, encouraging comparisons of style and technique.

Please specify upon booking which area you would like your session to focus on.

SEND groups

All of the above themes can be adapted for SEND groups. Please contact us for more information about how we can meet your group’s needs.

Group size: 10 maximum

To book

Bookings can only be made via email. To request a booking form, please email at least six weeks (and up to one term) in advance.

What you need to know:

  • We require a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice of date and a time frame for your visit to be provided in the booking form
  • For each group of 10-25 pupils, we require the lead teacher’s name, email address and mobile number
  • We cannot guarantee that your group will see a certain painting or artist, as all paintings and rooms are subject to availability
  • Book your Gallery session before you book transport

For further information, please phone 020 7747 2424.

Students with additional and special needs: Please specify in the booking form if your students have additional needs.

Cancellation policy: 28 days prior to session.

Self-guided visits

You may prefer to design and lead your own Gallery session. To book a self-guided visit, please complete our online booking form.

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