Sessions for primary schools

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

Bookings for the Summer Term are now open. Themed tours are available on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

 Talking paintings (Key Stages 1 and 2) – sessions last one hour

These sessions are designed to build children's confidence and enjoyment in looking at and responding to paintings.

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

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

Themes for Key Stages 1 and 2:

Please choose from a theme below (please note that we cannot guarantee that you and your pupils will see a requested painting as part of your guided visit):

General introduction

Pupils will be introduced to the richness of the Gallery's collection. Through careful questioning and structured activities, Gallery educators will help them improve their observational skills and discuss their findings. The paintings selected will give an overview of the time frame, genres and themes included in the collection. Pupils will also explore changes in style, content, and painting technique over time, developing the skills to start exploring on their own.

The world around us

Pupils will be introduced to the ways in which artists have represented the natural world and the built environment. During investigations in the Gallery they will discover for themselves the artistic techniques that bring the painted world alive. Sessions may focus on depictions of water, the weather, plants and animals or buildings considering how artists have represented their chosen element and created a world the viewer can inhabit.

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

Myths and legends

Pupils will explore the ways in which artists have told stories in paint; how they have plotted complex narratives, created atmosphere, introduced characters and swept the viewer along in the emotion of the story, all in a single canvas. They will be encouraged to work through the story as it is portrayed in the painting, using the visual clues the artist has included, and give their own opinions and interpretation. This session is therefore suitable both as an introduction to the topic, and for those groups who already have a working knowledge of myths and legends.

Still life, landscape, or portraiture

Pupils will be given an overview of their chosen genre, looking at how it has been approached by different artists working across the periods covered by the collection. 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.

Materials, techniques, and processes

Pupils will explore how a painting is made, both physically and compositionally. They will be introduced to the differing materials and processes artists have used over time. Through guided looking they will examine how artists have composed the painting, used colour, light and tone and how effects such as texture and perspective have been created.

Religion in art

Though the religious works in the collection are essentially Christian, pupils will be encouraged to think more generally about how artists have portrayed the sacred, imagine the spaces they were commissioned for and what they meant to people at the time. Through large-scale altarpieces and smaller works for private devotion, pupils will investigate how artist have used symbols, colour, and composition to represent stories and key beliefs.
Sessions may act as a general investigation or focus on particular festivals such as Christmas or Easter.

Take One Picture: Pintoricchio, 'Penelope with the Suitors', about 1509

Penelope with the Suitors by Pintoricchio provides the stimulus for Take One Picture 2016/17. Pupils will explore the focus painting along with two others chosen to complement their understanding and observational skills. This session will work either as an introduction to Take One Picture or to enhance and consolidate knowledge for those who have already worked on the project.

Find out more information about our Take One Picture CPD days.

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.

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

To book 

Please phone 020 7747 2424 (select Option 1)

Group size: 10–90 pupils (maximum of 30 students per group)

Pupils with additional and special needs: Please specify upon booking if your pupils have additional needs.

Cancellation policy: 30 days prior to session