New Book | Image, Identity, and John Wesley

Posted in books by Editor on March 29, 2018

From Routledge:

Peter Forsaith, Image, Identity, and John Wesley: A Study in Portraiture (London: Routledge, 2018), 210 pages, ISBN: 9781138207899, $140.

The face of John Wesley (1703–1791), the Methodist leader, became one of the most familiar images in the English-speaking and transatlantic worlds through the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After the dozen or so painted portraits made during his lifetime came numbers of posthumous portraits and moralising ‘scene paintings’, and hundreds of variations of prints. It was calculated that six million copies were produced of one print alone—an 1827 portrait by John Jackson R.A. as frontispiece for a hymn book.

Illustrated by nearly one hundred images, many in colour, with a comprehensive appendix listing known Wesley images, this book offers a much-needed comprehensive and critical survey of one of the most influential religious and public figures of eighteenth-century Britain. Besides chapters on portraits from the life and after, scene paintings and prints, it explores aspects of Wesley’s (and Methodism’s) attitudes to art and the personality cult which gathered around Wesley as Methodism expanded globally.

Peter S. Forsaith is a historian of religion, culture and society in eighteenth-century Britain. He is Research Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History, Oxford Brookes University, UK, and has written and lectured on many aspects of Methodist history. He gained his Ph.D. in 2003 for a scholarly edition of Rev. John Fletcher’s letters to Rev. Charles Wesley, later expanded and published as Unexampled Labours (2008). He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.


1  ‘A Far Greater Genius than Sir Joshua’: Some Issues and Complexities around the Portraiture
2  ‘This Melancholy Employment’: Portraits from the Life to 1780
3  ‘I Yielded to Importunity’: Portraits from the Life, 1781–91
4  Prints and Posthumous Portraits: Spreading and Selling the Image
5  Scene Paintings
6  Pottery and Sculpture: A Note
7  No Striking Likeness? Images and Ambiguities
8  ‘The Pious Preacher’: Satire
9  ‘Of Pictures I Do Not Pretend To Be a Judge’: John Wesley and Art
10  Image, Identity, and Institution: Constructing a Canon
11  Conclusions: Visualising Mr. Wesley

Appendix A: Iconography of Principal Paintings of John Wesley, with Selected Prints
Appendix B: References in John Wesley’s Journal and Diaries to Portraits and Painters

%d bloggers like this: