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Wesley, John: portraits

John Wesley was painted a number of times both in and after his lifetime, both in portraits and in ‘scene paintings’. Copies have been made of many pictures, and prints proliferate since Wesley became a popular subject for engravings. This is therefore a complex area since there are hundred of variant images in circulation. Those listed are among the better known.

From life:

  • Wesley as a gownboy at Charterhouse. At John Street Chapel, New York, since 1930. Artist unknown. Identity of sitter disputed.
  • Click to enlarge
    1742: by J.M. Williams. At Wesley College, Bristol. Copies at Lincoln College, Oxford and the Wesley Centre, Oxford (the ‘Mission House’ copy). The earliest authenticated portrait. A variant by J. Harley (c.1745) at Epworth Old Rectory (formerly at Methodist Publishing House, London). Wesley considered Williams more gifted than Joshua Reynolds (letter to Henry Brooke, 15 October 1771).

Sitting recorded in Wesley’s Journal, 31 July 1765. Hunter had a practice in Dublin. Cf. the ‘Ranmoor College portrait’, now in the University of Manchester Library.

  • Click to enlarge
    c.1766: By Nathaniel Hone. At the National Portrait Gallery, London. Other versions at Methodist Publishing House, Peterborough, Methodist Archive and History Centre, Drew University (image reversed) and World Methodist Museum, Lake Junaluska.

Probable sitting recorded in Wesley’s Journal, 30 December 1772.

  • 1788: By William Hamilton. At the National Portrait Gallery, London.

See Wesley’s Journal for 22 December 1787.

  • Picture:e02956c.jpg|thumb|right]]1789: By 9.George Romney. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Copies at Christ Church, Oxford; Lincoln College, Oxford; National Portrait Gallery, London; Wesley’s Chapel and House, London; the ‘New Room’, Bristol; Westminster Institute of Education, Oxford; World Methodist Museum, Lake Junaluska.

Commissioned by Mrs. Tighe, of Rosanna, Co. Wicklow. See Wesley’s Journal and Diary for 5 January 1789 etc.

  • 1791: By Richard Westall: ‘The Death of Revd. John Wesley, 2 March 1791'. Sepia drawing with Colnaghi, London, 1952.

May have been used by Claxton for his ‘Holy Triumph’ (c.1844); see below.

Posthumous portraits:

These include those by John Jackson RA (c.1826), R.J. Westley (after Hamilton, 1927) and Frank O. Salisbury.

Scene paintings:

Pictures of scenes from Wesley’s life include:

H Perlee Parker: ‘A Brand plucked from the Burning’ (1840) (Methodist Church House, London)

Marshall Claxton: ‘Holy Triumph’ (c.1844, Museum of Methodism, London); ‘The Holy Club’ (c.1850, Salford Art Gallery); John Wesley in the Wednesbury Riots’ (1865, location now unknown) and others

‘Wesley preaching from his father’s tomb’ (several artists)

W O Geller: ‘John Wesley preaching at Gwennap Pit’ (1845, location now unknown)

William Hatherell: ‘John Wesley preaching at a market cross’ (1906, Museum of Methodism, London. Issued as a print by the Bovril Company)

Sources

  • C. Ryder Smith, 'The Olave Portrait of Wesley', in Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, May 1925, pp.310-12
  • Peter S. Forsaith, 'The Romney Portrait of John Wesley', in Methodist History, vol. 42 (2003-4) pp.249-55
  • Peter S. Forsaith, John Wesley - religious hero? 'A brand plucked as from the burning' (Oxford, 2004)
  • Donald H. Ryan, 'The Edinburgh Wesley Portraits', in WHS Proceedings, 55:1 (February 2005) pp.1-13
  • Peter Forsaith, in T&T Clark Companion to Methodism (2010), pp.353-7
  • '"A far greater genius than Sir Joshua": did Joshua Reynolds paint John Wesley?' in British Art Journal, Vol.16 no.3, winter 2015/16, pp.103-9
  • Richard P. Heitzenrater, An exact Likeness: the portraits of John Wesley (Nashville, 2016)

Entry written by: PSF
Category: Subject

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