pen and ink and coloured pencils
copyright Katherine Tyrrell
What do you do when you go to a large museum or art gallery? Just look at the pictures? Well, there's actually a lot of other sorts of activities going on in galleries.
First off, galleries are great places to meet people and I'm now quite used to arranging meetings or interviews in galleries - although these are generally art-related and are also generally in one of the eating/drinking/relaxing areas. Apparently I'm not alone - I attended a focus group at the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year. We were all Members of the NPG and virtually all of us used the gallery's facilities to meet up with people in our respective fields.
Last Thursday I was at the National Gallery meeting someone about a major project we're currently sizing and scoping. Afterwards I walked round the gallery and then sketched the activities I saw going on.
Drawing and Painting
There's lots of personal development and teaching that goes on in the Galleries too.
Photography or the use of a video camera is banned at the National Gallery (but not all museums - check first) however it is possible to sketch and/or copy paintings in the NG and some other galleries. Some of them (eg the NG and V&A) even provide sketching stools free! I sketched one woman who was copying a Poussin painting. Below are the instructions for people wanting to draw or paint in the National Gallery.
You can sketch throughout the Gallery. At busy times, we may ask you to move on. Please use a hand-held pad of paper with pencil, graphite stick or felt-tipped pens. Please do not use messy materials such as pastels, wax crayons, charcoal and fountain pens.School Parties
You may bring your own stool for sketching. We may ask you to move on if we feel you're in the way of other visitors.
Copyists who wish to use paint or other oil/water-based media can ask for an application form from the Information Department.
National Gallery Frequently Asked Questions
I always seem to be almost tripping over school parties squatting or sprawled on the floor in galleries - you know how long the legs are of young people! ;). Last week, the class in the sketch below were having a full-on chemistry lesson about the nature of the pigments and the way in which they change over time as they become exposed to different things. Different elements which contribute to the different colours were identified and their action highlighted. Conservation and restoration processes were also explained. The quote from the chap explaining the detail of the restoration challenges and solution, which runs along the bottom of the picture, says
"The National Gallery probably employs more scientists than art historians"
Education and Events
It's also worth checking the education sections of any gallery's website. They also list events (workshops, seminars, courses, gallery talks/trails etc) for various age groups and backgrounds. Some are associated with a specific exhibition while others are related to the nature and scope of the permanent collection. In London, some charge a fee and some are free.
Below are the education and events links for some of the most popular galleries and museums in London.
- National Gallery
- National Portrait Gallery
- Royal Academy of Arts
- Victoria and Albert Museum:
- British Museum
- Learn online
- Learning in the galleries - events and education covers Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives
- Wallace Collection
- Courtauld Institute of Art