Themed 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)

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. 

  • Sessions last one hour and are free for UK schools.
  • For overseas groups, there is a charge of £50–75 a group.
  • Students 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.

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.

Please select one of the following periods upon booking: Renaissance, Baroque, The Dutch Golden Age, or Impressionism.

Landscapes, portraits and identity, still life, the human figure

Students will be given an overview of their chosen genre, looking at how it has been approached by different artists working across the periods covered in the collection. Specialist educators will guide students through the key elements of composition in their chosen genre and encourage them to compare variations of style and technique.
Please specify upon booking which area you would like your session to focus on, namely, Landscape, Portraits and Identity, Still Life or the Human Figure

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.

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.

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

For overseas groups, there is a charge of £50–75 a group.

Students will see a maximum of three paintings as part of their facilitated visit.

To book

To request a booking form, please email Please make sure you have a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of date and a time frame for your visit ready.
For further information, please phone 020 7747 2424 (select Option 1).
Group size: 10–30 students per group.
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.
We welcome bookings from international schools and offer tours in English or French. Please specify your requirements at the time of booking. Contact us for more information on costs and to make a booking.

Self-guided visits

You may prefer to design and lead your own Gallery session. To book a self-guided visit, please email