The visual art programme was an approach used to facilitate students’ discovery of personal knowledge of empathy. The research programme constituted the first phase of an existing theory course in empathy. It involved a visual-verbal-writing process in which a reproduction of Edvard Munch's The Sick Child was studied and interpreted with a focus on personal knowledge of empathy. Data were collected from two university colleges of health sciences in Sweden during a period of 4 years (1995–1998). Student nurses (n = 428) in the undergraduate programme served as the study population. In the first stage, the students worked alone on written reports. Then, in small-groups, they discussed whether the picture facilitated the discovery of a personal knowledge of empathy. The results showed that the visual art programme stimulated the students to discuss and write about empathy. The ambiguity in the painting and the relaxed study situation was favourable to the students' discovery of their personal knowledge of empathy.