Figuratively Speaking

Grades: Primary - 6

Explore portraits and figurative paintings in the Gallery. Learn more about how artists can use body language and composition to help the viewer discover more about a person or a group of people in an artwork. 


Tour Outline

Portraits allow us to gain perspective in worlds very different from our own – both long ago and far away. They also allow us to meet people of the present who we might never encounter in our daily lives.Students will begin to understand the subject in the portrait first by noting the body language, facial expression, clothes, setting and any objects included in the picture.

A portrait represents a specific person, group of people, and even animals. They may also represent particular inanimate objects. Yet how an artist chooses to create their likenesses varies according to when and where the subject and the artist lived, why the portraits were created, and where they would be on view. The artist’s own particular personality, background, artistic style and skills also play a part.

Students will be introduced to the art of portraits and learn to understand that a portrait may tell us more than just what that person looked like. A portrait can also tell about the life and times of the person and the artist. This tour will also create an opportunity for students to compare and contrast the various materials, techniques, styles and ideas in portraits and self-portraits through study of early traditional works, genre paintings, folk art and contemporary/abstract works.


Link to Specific Curriculum Outcomes  

Primary [PDF]            Grade 1 [PDF]           Grade 2 [PDF]           Grade 3 [PDF]          

Grade 4 [PDF]           Grade 5 [PDF]           Grade 6 [PDF]


Optional in-gallery activity (free of charge)

Sketching in the Gallery – Face the Facts

Students will pair up with another student and learn the basics of how to sketch a portrait.



Lesson Plan



  • Rohmer, Harriet. (1997). Just Like Me: Stories and Self-Portraits by Fourteen Artists. Children's Book Press.