In this innovative and lavishly illustrated study John Harvey examines the visual expression of religious and spiritual concepts in Nonconformist Wales. He discusses his subject within a broad cultural context which includes fine art, architecture, preaching, hymnology and such intangible manifestations as visions. The author argues that the Bible had a strong influence on the visual idiolect of Nonconformists during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and that it permeated their perception, interpretation and representation of life. This is perhaps most apparent in the imagery of hymns and sermon illustrations and in the vocabulary and phraseology of preachers, but its effect on Welsh visual culture was also profound and far-reaching and affected both the mode and idiom of religious visions as well as the exterior and interior features of the chapel. John Harvey explores his subject with particular reference to the intertwined concepts of religion and mining in the south Wales coalfields. He examines the tradition of biblical identity and fusion as manifest in the visionary experiences of miners and their families since the 1904 revival: the architectural similarities between chapels, collieries and Old Testament places of worship, and sermon illustrations which derived spiritual meanings and lessons from the harsh realities of coal-mining. Latterly, this tradition is evident in the paintings of Nicholas Evans. Arguably, this principle of visualization whereby heavenly realities are clothed in tangible earthly garb, constitutes one of the most distinctive manifestations of Welsh visual culture.
Professor John Harvey is a historian of art, visual culture and sound art at the University of Aberystwyth. He specialises in the visual and sonic culture of religion as well as the imagery and sonority of popular piety.