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Early Georgian Portraits Catalogue: Whitefield

The following text is from the National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Kerslake, Early Georgian Portraits, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1977 (now out of print). For the most up to date research on the Collection, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text. This can be accessed by following the link with each portrait’s title.

In consulting the following, please note that apart from the reformatting which allows the printed catalogue to be made available on-line the text is as published in 1977. Footnotes in the original edition are given within square brackets.

Contents Foreword Introduction Catalogue scope Abbreviations Arrangement of entries

George Whitefield (1714-70)

Methodist; joined Society of Methodists as an Oxford undergraduate, 1735; a missionary preacher chiefly in London and the West Country from 1737, and in Georgia, 1738-39; ordained at Christ Church, Oxford, 1739; returned to Savannah; split with Wesleyan Methodists, 1741; opened Moorfields Tabernacle, 1741 and chapel in Tottenham Court Road, 1756; chaplain to Lady Huntingdon, 1748; Whitefield travelled widely both in the British Isles and America, which he visited again, 1744-48, 1751-52 and 1754-55, dying at Newburyport, Massachusetts, 1770. He married 14 November 1741 at St Martin's, Caerphilly, Elizabeth James, née Burnell, a friend of Wesley and ten years his senior.

131 By John Wollaston, c.1742
Oil on canvas, 32 5/8 x 26 in. (779 x 660 mm); dark grey eyes, with squint, white wig; white bands, black gown; five members of the congregation below, foremost a lady in pale yellow frock and yellow straw hat with blue ribbon; plain brown background; lit from the right.

On the back of the relining canvas, the auctioneer's chalk marks: July 19 61 / 158 p. in the top right hand corner of the stretcher a torn printed label 14;Scharf noted at Christie's, 16 May 1861, [1] a paper formerly on the back of the stretcher: Whitefield holding forth to his congregation. Hogarth but this label had disappeared by the time the picture was acquired.

According to Christie's catalogue, 27 April 1861, the woman in the congregation is supposed to represent Mrs James, of Abergavenny, whom the sitter married in 1741; the village attorney and the blacksmith are also said to be depicted. No portraits of Mrs Whitefield appear to be known for comparison.

The DNB gives no authority for its statement that NPG 131 was painted about 1737. [2]

Faber's engraving is lettered quite specifically John Wollaston Jnr. Pinxt. 1742. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it is to be preferred as a contemporary source. It should also be noted that although Vertue [3] seems to indicate only one Wollaston, Walpole, his source itself one of the sons, mentioned a son who followed his father's profession. He attributed the portrait of Britton, NPG 523, to the father. [4] Britton [5] and Whitefield are on a different scale, which makes comparison difficult, but could well be by separate hands. Walpole does not mention Whitefield.

Condition:worn; a stretcher mark along the top; discoloured repaints and varnish; pin-holes at corners; an x-ray revealed no change of design under the apparent pentiment to the left of the lady.

Collections:bought, 1861, at Christie's, 19 July, lot 158; previously lot 133, Christie's, 27 April 1861, as by Hogarth, from the Charles Salt collection, Haldon House, Christie's catalogue stating that it had been purchased at the sale of Lady Miles, Arlingham Court, Gloucester; sketched by Scharf at the Salt sale.

Engraved:John Faber junior (O'D 12).

Exhibited:‘NPE', 1867 (403); 'American processional 1492-1900', Washington, Corcoran Art Gallery, 1950.

1434A Formerly called George Whitefield, by H. Edridge, 1799
Pencil on paper, 7 x 5 ¾ in. (178 x 146 mm)

This drawing has been discovered to represent Thomas Coke (1747-1814), Methodist divine, and will be dealt with in a later volume of the catalogue.

1792 By John Russell, 1770 (?)
Oil on canvas, 6 7/8 x 5 3/8 in. (175 x 150 mm) maximum, edges irregular, fragment cut from a larger canvas; blue eyes, with squint, grey eyebrows, thin lips, white wig, elderly appearance; white bands, black gown; green-background.

NPG 1792 shows less of the sitter than Trotter's engraving published 7 March 1783, From an original picture in the possession of John Grove Esq. Millbank. Westmr.,but has obviously been cut down. It is on a small scale. A 'Mr Groves' is mentioned in Russell's diary, c.1769,but not otherwise identified. [6] The portrait engraved by Trotter is likely to have been a second version. NPG 1792 probably remained in the possession of the artist's family, and is perhaps a study for the whole length portrait engraved by Watson (O'D 10), which shows Whitefield preaching in Moorfields. This was published in 1772, but no painting is now known. Whitefield was a particular friend of the artist and sat to him 11 May 1770. [7]

Condition:good; mounted on panel on acquisition in 1917; appears to have been cut from a larger canvas.

Collections:given 1917 by F.H. Webb, a great-grandson of the artist. [8]

Engraved: J.Watson, 1772; T. Trotter, 1783 for Middleton's Biographica Evangelica'.

Literature: Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, 1870-1954 (from 1935 by Dorothy George); G.C. Williamson, John Russell R.A., 1894; C. Carter, 'The Pottery of John Wesley', The Bazaar Exchange & Mart, 15 and 22 June 1937.


'His well-known squint was the result of measles in childhood . . . Whitefield's complexion was fair, his eyes dark blue and small; originally slender, he became corpulent from his fortieth year.' [9]


Whitefield was painted by Wollaston c.1742, NPG 131. In 1743 Faber published an engraving (O'D 9) whole length, after Kyte. A similar oil, head and shoulders, is at Pembroke College, Oxford. It is unattributed. A portrait engraved by A. Miller (O'D 6) after M. Jenkin, known only through the engraving, is in the same pose. Hone exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1768 a portrait of Whitefield (no.68), probably the oil given in 1930 by J.E. Cecil Bigwood to Whitefield Memorial Church, Tottenham Court Road and destroyed by enemy action, March 1943. It was engraved by J. Greenwood (O'D 2) and others (O'D 3-5). A head and shoulders portrait by an unknown hand is now in the church. Flaxman showed a 'Bust' in the same exhibition (96), presumably the prototype of the medallion later produced by Wedgwood. Whitefield, as already noted, sat to his fellow Methodist and friend John Russell in 1770, a type discussed under NPG 1792.

An undated portrait in which the sitter looks young is now known only through Faber's mezzotint (O'D I) after G. Beard. A half length by an unknown hand, given to Mansfield College by Baron Winterstoke in 1895, appears correctly named and late in life on comparison with authentic portraits. Presumably the work of an anonymous amateur, a portrait 'by a Gentleman' was exhibited at the Society of Artists exhibition of 1773 (296). A crudely painted group showing Whitefield preaching in the open air (Moorfields?) and attributed to Collet was sold from the Hughes-Stanton collection, Philip Son and Neale, 18 September 1956, lot 271. Like Wesley, Whitefield was the subject of popular portraits on mugs, tea pots and the like, and pottery busts such as those by Enoch Wood were made, perhaps posthumously. [10] A number of caricatures also exist; one only very slightly altered, if at all, from engraved portraits appeared in imitation of nos XXXVll and XXXVIII in the Tête à Tête series. An Indian squaw, Parrawankan, is shown opposite Whitefield, who is called unkindly, if perhaps inevitably, 'Dr Squintum'. [11]


1. TSB, V, p.81.
2. XXI, p.92.
3. II, p.67; V, pp.95-96.
4. Anecdotes, pp.620-21.
5. Piper, pp.34-35.
6. Williamson, p.24.
7. Ibid, p.22.
8. Ibid, pp.3, 169.
9. DNB, XXI, pp.85, 92.
10. Carter, 15 June 1937. Known versions of the pottery bust are by Enoch Wood, who was only 12 in 1770 (cf F. Falkner, The Wood Family of Burslem, 1912, pp.57, 59 and pl.xxxv). Glazed examples in the Methodist Research Centre and Archive, City Road, appear to be companions to his Wesley, type B, of c.1791, see above, Wesley, Iconography.
11. Nos. XXXVII and XXXVIII of Tête à Tête portraits are: no.XXXCII ‘Miss D . . . ple’, no.XXXVIII ‘The Pious Preacher’. This is a caricature of John Wesley and his supposed relations with a Miss D, his 'fair Proselyte', Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires, V, no.5300.


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