Discussing artworks in the permanent collection

Impressionistic landscape painting of a a river, trees on the riverbank, buildings on the horizon and a white sailboat.
Claude Monet (1840-1926), Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat, 1874. © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

Dementia-inclusive resource

This resource focuses on five paintings in the Gallery's collection, and is designed as an aid for carers and health professionals to help individuals with dementia to enjoy the artworks through discussion and practice-based exercises. This resource can be used to prepare for a visit to the Gallery, or simply to enjoy at home if you won't have the opportunity to visit.

For a full and comprehensive guide to leading a session using our resources, read through the overview page first.

The artworks

We'll be looking at a selection of works from the Gallery's collection for this activity. You can find more details about any of the paintings mentioned on our online collection site

  • Argenteuil Basin with Single Sailboat (1874), by Claude Monet (1840-1926)
  • A Thunderstorm: the Frightened Wagoner (1832), by James Arthur O’Connor (1792-1841)
  • The Peasant Wedding (1620), by Pieter Brueghel, the Younger (1564-1638)
  • A Banquet-piece (c.1620), by Frans Snyders (1579-1657)
  • The Holy Family with Saint John in a Landscape (1494), by Francesco Granacci (1469-1543)
Impressionistic landscape painting of a a river, trees on the riverbank, buildings on the horizon and a white sailboat.
Claude Monet (1840-1926), Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat, 1874. © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

Claude Monet, Argenteuil Basin with Single Sailboat, 1874

About the painting
  • It was painted in 1874.
  • The artist, Claude Monet, painted it while in another sailboat which he used as a floating studio.
  • Argenteuil is an area north of Paris on the river Seine.
About the artist, Claude Monet
  • Claude Monet was a French painter.
  • He was born in 1840 in Paris.
  • He was one of the founders of Impressionism.
  • He liked to paint landscapes outdoors and is famous for using vibrant bright colours.
  • Some of his most well-known paintings are his Water Lilies series.
About Impressionism
  • Impressionism started in France in the 1860s.
  • The Impressionists were a group of artists that included Claude Monet, Augustus Renoir and Edgar Degas.
  • The Impressionists wanted to capture the light and colour of the moment and therefore painted quickly.
  • They often painted outdoors.
  • They used rapid brush strokes and often used unmixed colour.
Detail from James Arthur O'Connor, A Thunderstorm: the Frightened Wagoner, 1832
Detail from James Arthur O'Connor, A Thunderstorm: the Frightened Wagoner, 1832. Image © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

James Arthur O'Connor, A Thunderstorm: the Frightened Wagoner, 1832

About the painting
  • This painting is regarded as one of James Arthur O’Connor’s finest works.
  • It is an example of a landscape painting in the style of Romanticism. Romanticism was a 19th-century style of painting that celebrated the dramatic in the natural world.
  • The painting depicts a stormy night  where a bolt of lightning startles the horses of a wagoner on his travels.
  • The wagoner is dwarfed not just by the huge elements of the landscape but by of the drama that unfolds around him.
About the artist, James Arthur O’Connor
  • James Arthur O'Connor was a distinguished lrish landscape painter.
  • He was born in Dublin in 1792.
  • O’Connor was self-taught and became known for his meticulous detailing in his paintings.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564 - 1638), 'Peasant Wedding', 1620. © National Gallery of Ireland.
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564 - 1638), 'Peasant Wedding', 1620. © National Gallery of Ireland.Credit

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, The Peasant Wedding, 1620

About the painting
  • This painting was painted in 1620.
  • It is a genre painting, which means it is a scene of everyday life.
  • The scene depicts a Flemish country wedding.
  • The painter is making a mockery of the behaviour of people during a marriage feast.
  • The figures are deliberately caricatured and comical.
  • There is drinking, dancing and flirting taking place.
  • In the background, we see the bride sitting quietly at a table. The wedding dowry is being discussed by the people either side of her.
About the artist, Pieter Brueghel, The Younger
  • Pieter Brueghel the Younger lived between 1564 and 1638.
  • He was a Flemish painter.
  • He was the son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder and brother of Jan Brueghel the Elder.
  • Like his father, he painted crude and caricatured peasant scenes.
  • He also painted landscapes, religious subjects and village scenes.
A view of a banquet table. Among the food shown (lobster, fruit, vegetables) we see a squirrel on the table, and to the right, a small monkey.
Frans Snyders (1579-1657), A Banquet Piece, late 1620s.Credit

Frans Snyders, A Banquet-piece, c.1620

About the painting
  • This painting is an example of a still life, an artwork that depicts inanimate objects.
  • The painting  depicts food such as fresh fruits, vegetables and a lobster. We can also see cutlery and dishes.
  • It was painted in Antwerp in 1620. Antwerp was an important marketplace for exotic fruit and vegetables in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  • It is a large painting and it is believed that it may have been intended to decorate an aristocratic dining room.
About the artist, Frans Snyders
  • Frans Snyders was the leading Flemish artist famous for his still-life and animal paintings.
  • During a career that lasted about 50 years, he produced an enormous amount artworks. This included more than 300 paintings and about 100 drawing.
  • Snyders was very successful and was able to demand high prices for his work from noble patrons.
Painting showing Virgin Mary seated in a landscape with the Christ Child on her lap and St John the Baptist as an infant at her feet. Joseph leads a donkey in the background.
Francesco Granacci (1469-1543), 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt with the Infant Saint John the Baptist', c.1494. Image © NGICredit

Francesco Granacci, The Holy Family with Saint John in a Landscape, 1494

About the painting
  • This work was painted in Italy during the late 15th century during a period known as the High Renaissance.
  • It depicts the Holy Family as they rest after they escaped from Bethlehem and travelled to Egypt.
  • The flight into Egypt is a story recounted in the Gospel of Matthew.
  • In the foreground, the virgin and child are greeted by the infant Saint John the Baptist.
  • In the background, Saint Joseph leads a donkey forward.
  • The painting is widely regarded as Granacci’s masterpiece.
About the artist, Francesco Granacci
  • Francesco Granacci was an Italian painter during the Renaissance period.
  • He was born in 1469 in the city of Florence.
  • Biblical figures in colourful landscapes are typical of his work.
  • Granacci and the artist Michelangelo were friends. They were both pupils of the artist Domenico Ghirlandaio.
About the Renaissance
  • The Renaissance was a period in art that began in Florence in the 14th century.
  • It was marked by a renewed interest in the culture of the ancient world.
  • The Renaissance spread across Italy and Europe from the 14th to the 16th century.
  • During the Renaissance artists aimed to create paintings and sculpture that appeared realistic.
  • In painting, artists were interested in depicting the impression of distance between people and objects. This developed into a technique called perspective.
  • The most famous artists during the Renaissance were Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Practical session: Painting

There is something very special about painting. The act of putting paint to paper is very satisfying on a sensory level and can yield immediate results. For these reasons, painting is great for those starting out with these sessions.

Materials:

  • Two sheets of A4 cartridge paper
  • One brush, a jar of water (to clean the brushes)
  • A ceramic plate with a few squirts of paint (just the primary colours will be fine)

Getting started: 

You can announce that you are going to paint a landscape and ask all the participants to put their brushes into the blue paint and create the sky using the blue. The first mark has been made and can act as the compulsion to keep at it. You should seek to incorporate some of the ideas that were spoken about during the discussion, by suggesting certain elements, like trees or boats, but the most important part is to let them be free.

Reluctance: 

Some participants will say that they can’t paint and will refuse to partake. Very often, this is due to embarrassment about what the outcome might be. Assure the participant that the exercise is about enjoying the process of painting and that their work won’t be subject to critique at the end. Be very encouraging – use phrases like “Give it a try and see what happens”. Remind them that they have two sheets of paper and that one of the sheets can be used to make a warm-up painting. It might be necessary to start the participant off by, for example, painting a tree and then encouraging them to add the leaves. Make sure to have extra paper available.

Take a break: 

It’s good to take breaks: it allows participants to relax and it’s an opportunity for the facilitator to gauge how the group as a whole are doing with the exercise. The facilitator can ask questions like, “Is everyone enjoying the activity?” or, “Does anyone want to talk about how they’re doing?’’. This gives the facilitator an opportunity to refer to points made in the earlier discussion. Again, it’s important not to be too regimented; announcing a break doesn’t mean everybody has to stop and if some participants are in a state of flow with the artwork, let them continue.

Finishing up: 

This session should last approximately 20 minutes, however the facilitator’s intuition should be used to bring the activity to its natural conclusion. You can use phrases like, “Everybody is doing great; we’ll finish up now shortly”. You can finish the session with a question like, “Did everybody enjoy the activity?”. You could also ask if anybody would like to volunteer to speak about or show their work.

In summary: 

Everybody has their own personal responses to artworks. Some people are drawn to the colours, some to the subject matter, and others to the composition. Creating an activity that explores these responses in an informal environment is key to the success of the session. Although the person in your care who lives with dementia might not be able to remember everything about the artwork you’ve been looking at, they can still enjoy having taken part in a pleasurable and creative experience.

ZOOM sessions and PDFs

ZOOM

If you have the means to use digital platforms like ZOOM, we can arrange for a member of our team to take part in the session. We are also available to answer any of your questions about this activity. 

Contact Caomhán Mac Con Iomaire in our Education Department. T: 01 6633507 | E [email protected]

Our service in brief:

  • Come to us: If you would like to visit the gallery, please get in touch and we can arrange a free guided tour for you.
  • Go to you:  We can facilitate a workshop tailored for home or care settings.
  • Meet online: We can facilitate a ZOOM workshop at a time and date that suits you.

PDFs

If you'd prefer to download and print out these in-home resources, you can access the PDFs below:

    With thanks to:

    • Fiona Foley | National Coordinator, Dementia Understand Together in Communities
    • Ciaran McKinney | Engage Programme Manager, Age and Opportunity
    • Carolann Duggan | Carer

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