The image of John Wesley has been iconic beyond Methodism during and after his lifetime. On 22 May 2018, Lincoln hosted the annual Wesley Lecture, organised by the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History. Dr Peter Forsaith (Oxford Brookes University) delivered his lecture to a capacity audience in the Oakeshott Room. Drawing from the research conducted for his recent book Image, Identity and John Wesley: A Study in Portraiture (Routledge Methodist Studies Series, 2017), Dr Forsaith highlighted some conclusions gleaned from the fruits of his critical survey into the hundreds of images of John Wesley. He discussed aspects of Wesley’s, and later Methodism’s, attitudes to art, and the personality cult which gathered around Wesley as Methodism expanded globally.
Dr Forsaith’ s lecture was accompanied by an exhibition of images of Wesley, drawn from the collections of Lincoln College, Oxford Brookes University, and the Methodist Church. The variety of items on display spoke to the popularity of John Wesley’s image: a Thomas Bewick printing plate; portraits by J M Williams (in oil), Kate Gray (Charles Wesley’s great-grand-daughter) after George Romney (in oil), and John Barry (on ivory); a John Kay caricature; a collage of Wesley and early Methodist preachers carefully cut and arranged from the Arminian Magazine; and an anniversary sweatshirt.
Dr Forsaith’ s lecture and exhibition provided a very enlightening evening for Wesley and Methodist scholars, as well as those interested in the spread of visual culture from the 18th century to the present day.