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Portrait detectives, key stage 2

Key facts

  • Suitable for: Key Stage 2
  • Subjects: Art and design, English, History
  • Session type: Gallery led
  • Duration: 60 minutes
  • Class size (maximum): 30
  • Venue: Walker Art Gallery

Summary

Your group are invited to become portrait detectives, taking an enquiry-based approach to find clues in three different portraits.  Discussion is highly interactive and takes what the children can see and their thoughts and feelings about the paintings as a starting point. Portrait detectives also involves practical activities, giving children the chance to develop their technical and communication skills.

Further details

Portrait detectives begins with a warm welcome from a member of the gallery’s education team and questions and answers about what the children might expect to see during their visit.

We then discuss the definition of portraits. The children are invited to become portrait detectives, taking an enquiry-based approach to find clues in three different portraits.  Discussion is highly interactive and takes what the children can see and their thoughts and feelings about the paintings as starting points. Areas discussed can include the difference between a portrait and self portrait, the differences in works of art, why people commission portraits, the role of the artist, how wealth is represented in paintings, what we can learn about the sitter by what is included in a painting, why artists paint self portraits, and the differences between the past and today.

The discussion is guided by skillful questioning that encourages the children to focus, observe, and interpret the paintings for themselves.  During this process, the children’s confidence in interpreting paintings, their visual literacy and critical thinking skills are developed.

Portrait detectives also involves practical activities, giving children the chance to develop their technical and communication skills. They create a mind map, thinking about their identity and how it could be represented through portraiture, allowing them to develop their creativity and communicate their ideas.

The session concludes with the children creating their own portraits using techniques demonstrated to them by the session leader during a group ‘shared’ drawing exercise. This helps them understand the structure of a face and how to map it out for drawing a portrait. During the individual drawing task, pupils use the skills they have learnt and the ideas they have had looking at the paintings.

This session is a unique opportunity for pupils to engage meaningfully with, and be inspired by, internationally important art collections in the Walker Art Gallery.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

Pupils will:

  • know about portraits painted by different artists
  • learn about great artists and understand the historical and cultural developments of their art form (portraiture)
  • understand the difference between a portrait and a self-portrait.
  • gain knowledge and understanding of the roles of artists and their working practices
  • gain knowledge and understanding of characteristic features of periods and societies of the past.
  • Understand how artists use visual symbols to communicate information

Skills

Pupils will:

  • Develop observation skills by learning how to look for clues in portraits and decipherer what these clues may mean
  • Learn to look for and describe differences and similarities in works of art
  • Improve their speaking and listening skills in a group discussion context
  • Learn to give reasoned answers backed up by evidence
  • Use and develop drawing skills to make a portrait

Concepts

Pupils will be introduced to:

  • The role of an artist
  • The role of a national gallery like the Walker Art Gallery
  • That paintings are produced by an artists by hand
  • Know that artists reflect our history
  • Why people commission portraits and how they can be used to communicate power, wealth and status

Attitudes

Pupils will:

  • enjoy an engaging visit to the gallery
  • be inspired to create portraits and self portraits back at class/ at home
  • be inspired to look at paintings and visit  galleries
  • be confident at interpreting paintings for themselves
  • see the Walker Art Gallery as an enjoyable and creative place to visit