Quaker Studies


Joseph Southall (1861-1944) was an artist distinguished in his field, a political activist of considerable stamina and a Quaker greatly loved and honoured by some Friends, albeit not by all. His political involvement as chairman of the Independent Labour Party in Birmingham from 1914 to 1931 afforded an opportunity for witness that was in harmony with his religious affiliation. But his profession as an artist was pursued against a climate of ambivalence toward the arts within the Quaker community, which was diminishing in the early twentieth century but had not altogether disappeared. This paper illustrates the traditional disapprobation of the arts by Quakers and identifies elements of a Quakerly aesthetic (defined for the purpose of this paper as 'a set of moral principles constraining the production or appreciation of a visual image'). The paper is an attempt to trace the emergence of such an aesthetic in the art of Joseph Southall. In particular, this paper examines Southall's alignment of art with craft, observes moral restraint in the painting of portraits and explores Southall's use of narrative themes in art as ministry.



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