How to Read a Painting, evening tour, Nat Gal Ireland, 6pm 14th April.

Looking at Art | the Art of Looking.

Our tour at the National Gallery of Ireland is “How to Read a Painting”.   That title, and our approach is prompted by a concern that less of us today retain the inclination, patience or perhaps the confidence to consider or interpret old master paintings.  If that’s true, then we’ve also lost the full, wonderful benefit of them.


Many surveys estimate the “average” museum-goer now spends from 9-25 seconds in front of most individual artworks. (These are the paintings they stop at at all)  In this tour we will spend from 5 up to 25 minutes in front of each painting (probably about 7 -10 paintings in total)   You will find it is a completely different experience.  In fact you may never look at art quite the same way again.   Here’s why below..


To try and help non-specialists build confidence looking at old master Art,   this a guided- discussion, an approach over the last 5 years or so.  We explore “iconography” -meaning symbols, especially religious symbols in Art- and learn some tricks and hints how to recognise various saints & symbols.  We’ll glance at supposedly tricky notions like the “picture plane”  and the vital importance of conventions in depiction, and how all these ideas helps us to “read” pictures.  We’ll discuss the key role and changing nature of artistic patronage too, and many other ideas & concept amid our conversation.  In short,  how are the many different elements of a painting, from symbols to light to landscape to gesture to composition used by artists, to construct meaning?

No prior knowledge is required!  The idea is to build confidence through a stronger framework of understanding;  learn a few useful concepts, and maybe develop a few good habits, when we engage with art.

If any of that sounds scary, the tours are good fun and very sociable!   This tour has been the subject of something like 100 5 start reviews on TRipAdvisor, which you can see under our Dublin Decoded banner there  In fact,  it’s also just a very nice way to spend a couple of hours chatting about art, surrounded by gorgeous, old master paintings.



We often lead How to Read a Painting for college groups, (or for well-heeled overseas visitors).  But we’ve got plenty of enquiries from our newsletter subscribers and other friends asking if we can run a public version.  Well, here’s the chance.  This Spring, April 14th, we host a rare public, and evening-time edition at the National Gallery of Ireland.  Tour starts after work, on a Thursday evening, runs 6pm -8pm.   Meeting time is 5.55pm, tour commences 6pm, and lasts approx 2 hours.  (The gallery does not close until 8.35 on a Thursday, and tour can run slightly over).  Places strictly limited to 15 people max, due to gallery restrictions, (my typical private group is often fewer).   Fee under €22 p/p on EventBrite.  Tickets will be available here from next week.


directly above: a detail from Gabrille Metsu,  at the National Gallery of Ireland.

National Gallery of Ireland, Art with Dublin DEcoded

If you can not make this small public event on Thursday 14th April. the tour is available for private, pre-booked custom groups, generally also on Thursday evenings 6-8pm, and/or on flexible dates, by prior arrangement.  For enquiry about this, or any other private tour, please send an email to    It’s helpful to specify this or any tour title and your preferred date (or dates) in the subject header please.  Subject header tour title & date will help facilitate a speedy response.  Other information, how many visitors etc may go within email.   Price for private tours fee €160 for custom groups up to 10,  (regardless of number 1-10 guests)  then please add €10 p/p above 10 guests .

National Gallery of Ireland, Art with Dublin DEcoded 3

If you wish to keep an eye out for future public events by Dublin Decoded or led by Arran Henderson, the best way by far is the monthly email newsletter.  The quick sign up form is here.

Thank you for reading.

Uncover the meaning of paintings


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