Posted on: March 28th 2023

Powerful Portraits

Earlier this month all Year 12 English students visited the Wallace Collection in Central London to take part in “Powerful Portraits”, a workshop that focused on the paintings in the gallery. The workshop encouraged us to consider the power that portraits might hold and convey and how they shape our personal, public and community identity.

Students were shown around the gallery by expert staff, who linked portraiture and its significance to the nineteenth century texts that we are studying: Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

We were able to explore how portraits were markers of social standing, both real and aspirational, and how their subjects sent messages to the world through their positioning, props and clothing. The workshop encouraged us to learn about the origins of the collection and the building in which it is housed.

The experience was uplifting as well as enriching, fulfilling the founder’s wish to bring art to the people of East London, since the paintings were originally housed in Bethnal Green. As always, our students asked pertinent questions and gave excellent answers and we hope to take another trip to the gallery in the near future.