Lifted. Art, faith and mental wellbeing

Lifted marks the bicentenary of James Smetham Pre-Raphaelite painter, poet, Methodist teacher . The course also features the work of Vincent Van Gogh, David Jones, Unity Spencer and other artists .

This course has been devised by Sarah Middleton, in collaboration with the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History.

Supported by the Gibbs Trust

Weekly for six weeks, starting 22 February 2021

We ask that you give around 4 hours per week to our online courses, which can be done at times to suit you; you do not need to be online at particular times.

Book online at:

Online booking will close on 15th February 2021.

James Smetham, self portrait

Art, faith and mental wellbeing are explored through the lives and creative output of:

Unity Spencer, painter and teacher, Quaker, author of ‘Lucky to be an artist’ (published 2015)

Eularia Clarke, two of whose works feature in the Methodist Modern Art Collection.

David Jones, First World War soldier, Roman Catholic artist, poet and calligrapher and, quite remarkably,

Vincent Van Gogh, who preached in Methodist Churches when he lived in London during the 1870s.

James Smetham provides the focal point. A friend of the artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Ruskin, Smetham was Drawing Master at the Wesleyan Westminster College and a devout Methodist Class Leader. His prolific visual ‘squarings’ (postage stamp-size pen and ink drawings) annotate his personal bible and hymn book, recording his daily activity both in celebration of and search of God’s blessings. He also produced literary ‘ventilators’, which might be described today as a method of therapeutic journaling.

Bible study will be accompanied by the opportunity to create personal ‘squarings’ or other responses to these artists who struggled variously with their mental health.

Course Tutor

Sarah Middleton – Visiting Research Fellow, Oxford Brookes University

Sarah’s first course for Wesley House was ‘Drawing Closer to God – exploring art in worship and theology’. She has recently led ecumenical study days around the themes of this new course looking at the uplifting dimensions of visual art and practice.