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Art beat

That unpleasant Shavian maxim: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach" was disproved again this week when the Ingres exhibition opened in the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London. Portraits by Ingres gathers together choice examples of the French artist's work, many completed while he was professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris or director of the French Academy in Rome.

He was known to be an inspiring teacher who befriended and encouraged his students. He was also a brilliant draughtsman, and his drawings of expatriate Britons doing the Grand Tour in Italy after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and others of friends such as the composer Liszt, are among the greatest pleasures of this most enjoyable exhibition.

Born in 1780, Ingres entered David's studio in Paris at the end of the century. Still in his 20s, he painted a splendid if overpowering portrait of Napoleon as Emperor. But although he did not achieve full recognition until 1824, with the government-commissioned altarpiece "The Vow of Louis XIII", he was a popular painter of society subjects, especially beautiful women. He did not scruple to distort the human form in the pursuit of sensuous pattern. Here, for instance, is Madame Philibert Rivi re, her curvaceous figure echoed in her curls and swathes of silk. In another room, M Bertin, the journalist, stares out of his portrait, challenging the spectator, his hands planted stolidly on his thighs. And, in the final room, two portraits of Mme Moitessier with preparatory drawings reveal much of the artist's method.

The National Gallery is, commendably, still free (although tickets for the special exhibition are pound;6) and is now open on Sunday mornings and until 9pm on Wednesdays. There are courses on Ingres and His Time, and Ingres's Portraits on Thursdays in February, and a series of lectures on Wednesday evenings. For details of these and other education events, tel: 0171 747 2885.

If you are a new writer, getting a play staged is an uphill battle, especially if you are disabled. Jamie Beddard has cerebral palsy, but he has built an acting career on stage and television, including performances in BBC1's The Vicar of Dibley and BBC2's play Skallagrig. Now an imaginative project will give him the opportunity to learn to write. The Disabled Writers Mentoring Scheme, launched last week at the National Theatre, aims to give nine disabled writers the chance to work with established playwrights such as Philip Ridley, Kaite O'Reilly and Patrick Marber. Graeae, the respected all-ability theatre company, and New Playwrights Trust have raised money from several sponsors for the six-month scheme.

Beddard sent in his idea - about how he broke into his now-derelict school - and was matched with Patrick Marber, who has had outstanding successes with his plays Dealer's Choice and Closer. They met at the launch and immediately set about planning their working arrangements, which will begin with faxed script and criticism while Patrick is in New York with Closer. Jenny Sealy, director of Graeae, says she can't wait to get hold of all the new material for her company. Watch this space. Details: 0171 284 2818.

Young blacks and Asians are also under-represented in professional theatre. Oval House in south London and Talawa Theatre Company are to hold a one-day conference on the subject, Stairway to Success, next Wednesday. Fifty 14 to 16-year-olds will take part in workshops and discussions with black and Asian theatre professionals, administrators, technicians and stage managers as well as actors, directors and writers. Oval House also runs the Options Project, a regular skills programme for young people, using drama. For information about Options, tel: 0171 582 6279. For workshops: 0171 735 2786.

Five secondary schools are working with the London Symphony Orchestra and Music Theatre Wales to present a fully-staged performance of Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale at the Barbican this Sunday at 4.45pm. Eighty pupils from Kidbrooke School in London, Enfield County School, the Godolphin School, Salisbury, and the City of London School for Boys have created their own pieces based on ideas from Stravinsky. The new pieces incorporate drama, art and movement as well as music. For more information about this and other LSO education projects, tel: 0171 588 1116.

And if you just want to listen and learn at home, Penguin Music Classics are issuing CDs of "great" works with accompanying explanatory notes and essays by well-known people. Writer Karen Armstrong introduces Holst's "Planets" played by the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal. I'm not sure I'm looking forward to Paul Johnson's ideas on Wagner, but Garrison Keillor on Handel's Messiah (highlights only) and Seamus Deane on Vivaldi's Four Seasons might be fun. Nothing too demanding so far, but there might be a few discussion points for students here. pound;7.99 each.

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