Artists and Evangelists

In the National Portrait Gallery there is a display case at the moment which bears the legend ‘Artists and Evangelists: Lives Remembered’. It features the artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema and the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, both of whom died in 1912. Alma-Tadema’s classical paintings feature in the current ‘Love and Death’ exhibition at BMAG, and I gather from the NPG’s display that his love of the ancient world was developed on honeymoon in Italy in 1863, leading to his ‘meticulous and innovative reconstructions of everyday life in classical Rome and Greece’. He made frequent further visits to Rome, and I gather he became respected for his archaeological knowledge about the ancient world. The display celebrates his life in photographs, and sketches, from the early stages of his painting life to his responsibilities as a Royal Academician, and his knighthood in 1899. Several of his works are currently on display at the ‘Love and Death’ exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

William Booth rejected the Church of England early on, and became a Methodist revivalist preacher, but, driven by his humanitarian views, his reforming zeal eventually led to his founding the Salvation Army, an organisation which is still going strong today and maintains his ideals. In sketches of the time, and even a cartoon, and photographs, this display celebrates the reforming zeal of a man who went from humble origins to a position as a noted orator, and used his position to try to improve the quality of life for the poorest in the country. As an evangelist he travelled the country speaking to the people, preaching the love of God, the need for charity and the importance of temperance. Perhaps he is rarely thought of outside the Salvation Army or the history books now, but he was clearly a remarkable man.


  1. This is excellent and thank you for highlighting William Booth. The Salvation Army was the basis of today’s Social Services in the UK. Booth only formed the Salvation Army because the other churches wouldn’t accept the new converts so they had nowhere to worship.

  2. Thank you, Vanja – that’s interesting, and I think it’s helpful to see how men like Booth have influenced modern society, too.

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