How to interpret and understand the language of portraits’ toolkit

All museum and gallery visitors bring with them the ideal equipment for interpreting portraits – themselves. Whatever their age or background, they have immense amounts of useful prior knowledge that can be tapped into – knowledge, for example, about emotions conveyed through body language and facial expressions or about giving messages through clothing. This includes the experience of having had an image made of themselves, generally a photograph.

This toolkit from Understanding British Portraits SSN is in three main sections:

  • Interpretation – for Whom? looks at the interpretation needs of different audiences
  • Interpretation – How? looks at a range of techniques including using words, images, drawing, websites and hi- and low-tech interactives
  • Interpretation – of What? looks at portrait reading, developing generic portrait reading skills, further aspects to consider when reading specific portraits

Click the link on the right-hand side to open this resource to view on the Understanding British Portraits website.


Date created: 2008

Author: Clare Gittings

Publisher: Understanding British Portraits