The Portrait Gallery

Had a great day at the National Portrait Gallery, with quite a large turn out of people. The group was divided into subgroups and we set off to explore. A list of questions were printed eg what medium was used, talk about the colours in the painting, when was the painting made to get people to start talking. The students I was with were most fascinated by a bronze bust of Nelson Mandela and a portrait of Catherine Dutchess of Cambridge-they could not believe it was a painting and not a photograph. It was also noted that there were no cameras at the time so these elaborate painting were made to commemorate moments, we were fascinated by how old the works were. What I found most interesting was the discussion on the immense role religion played in the lives of people pre 1900. Religious symbols were depicted in almost every painting, some students felt religion is not given enough importance these days. "there are only one or two young people in church on Sunday now". The challenging part was looking at a few colonial style paintings and trying to explain them eg one titled Bible where an ambassador from mombasa is bowing while receiving a bible from Queen Victoria. The best part was showing the students that something so fantastic was available and accessible to people. Like a key to a treasure trove of knowledge and art. None of the students had been there before - and almost all of them decided to stay and explore further even after we left. They now know that the national gallery can be accessed for free and what all they can find there. 

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