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

Clicking the link on this page will open this resource to view on the Understanding British Portraits website.


Date created: 2008

Author: Clare Gittings

Publisher: Understanding British Portraits