How to Read a Painting fun workshop: interpreting subjects & symbols at the National Gallery of Ireland.

Our last edition of this tour 26th October sold out weeks in advance so we have decided to run one more in 2017, in case potential guests were disappointed last time and wish to avail now.  It will run on Thursday evening of 16th November 2017.   Tickets for the public editions of the tour range around €20 per individual guest.  Please check and purchase on the ticket page link here.

This is a well known, enjoyable, convivial yet hugely high-value, content-rich tour;  the subject of scores of rave reviews on TripAdvisor and elsewhere.  It explores the National Gallery collection.  For the general yet intellectually curious visitor, it helps answer how to interpret, and understand, old master paintings.

How does the workshop operate?

We will look at somewhere between 12 and 18 paintings in penetrating detail, helping you learn some of the arcane skills of reading symbolism in paintings.

Such symbols include religious iconography from French and Italian Renaissance masterpieces, recognizing essential visual ingredients of popular subjects in historic religious art such as the Annunciation, Holy Family, Lamentation, Assumption and other, oft-depicted stories, and learning how to recognize the key attributes (identifying symbols) of the frequently depicted religious/ biblical stories and characters.   Developing these skills helps to add huge additional pleasure and interest looking at Art in future, whether in our own National Gallery, in old churches while on holiday or indeed, throughout the great museum collections of Europe and the world.


What type of Art will we look at ?

our tour takes in a thought-provoking selection of old master paintings starting from the 1300s, through the 1400s, and 1500s in Italian Pre-Renaissance, Quattrocento and High Renaissance Art.  We’ll also look at Art from France from the 1400s to the 1600s and from the 17th Century Golden Era of Dutch Art (the time of Rembrandt, Jan Steen, van Ruisdael and Vermeer).   As well as religious saints and symbols we’ll also glance at some of the best-known tropes of classical mythology, and how artists used symbols to help viewers to help identify mythological characters and subjects too.  In basic terms, you will meet Jupiter and Venus on the evening,  as well as Saints Francis, Jerome, Augustine, John, Luke, Mary and others!

When does the tour take place? When is the next publicly available edition of this tour? 

always check the website but as general rule, we run the majority of our art tours take place on selected Thursday evenings.  The reasoning is that’s when the galleries are beautifully quiet and peaceful, offering perfect viewing conditions, and the chance to discuss the artworks in a relaxed, highly enjoyable atmosphere.

When is the next publicly available edition of this tour?

At the time of writing, the next How to Read a Painting tour takes place Thursday evening of 16th November 2017.   Tickets for the public editions of the tour range from €17 to €20 per individual guest.  Please check and purchase on the ticket page link here.

Essential terms and conditions; important and useful notes:   Please note the following notes, carefully, before you book or attend!

1- the meeting place is just inside the door of the Merrion Square entrance of the NGI.  Not the Clare St entrance.  You may miss the tour, or some part of it, if you go by mistake to the Clare St entrance/foyer.

2- There are no refunds possible for practical reasons, please see below.

3- We will be just outside, then just inside, the door (not the gate) of the Merrion Square entrance of the NGI, approx 5 minutes prior to the start of the tour.

4-The tour begins at 6PM sharp.  At the very beginning of the tour there will be an opportunity to check-in coats and bags in the NGI cloakroom, for those who wish.  Alternatively this can be done just before you meet your guide.

5- Photography is allowed o the tour, subject to basic tact and consideration of the other guests, and subject to the rules of the NGI itself.

6- We will be exploring works in close detail and the tour includes much discussion, some of it in small groups.  You may wish to point at elements within the paintings and this is encouraged.  We ask guests however to avoid going or pointing closer than 8-10 inches to the surface of the paintings, which are fragile, irreplaceable, and of course, priceless.  Many thanks in advance for your consideration in this matter.

7- Please check your availability carefully before booking, this is a no-refund event.

Numbers are strictly limited to14 people, sometimes less and we usually have to turn people away, as the event normally books out.  If you buy a ticket you have therefore taken up that spot on a limited tour, which cannot be sold on to another guest. Accordingly we will not, unfortunately, be able to offer replacement spots on another tour, nor can “refund” ticket.

Accordingly please check your availability carefully before booking.  Many thanks.


Arran Henderson
Dublin Decoded, Dublin city art, architecture & history tours at..

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