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Image of the Invisible The Visualization of Religion in the Welsh Nonconformist Tradition by John Harvey

Image of the Invisible The Visualization of Religion in the Welsh Nonconformist Tradition


Image of the Invisible The Visualization of Religion in the Welsh Nonconformist Tradition by John Harvey

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.


'It is a work of considerable and varied scholarship, carefully constructed, and...beautifully produced by the University of Wales Press...we are constantly confronted in his work with unexpected insights and unfamiliar material. There is much here for which to be grateful, much which deserves to be pondered.'

About the Author

John Harvey

John Harvey lived and worked in Nottingham during the strike and witnessed the life at first hand. His depiction of the violence and anger is both wholly authentic and riveting. He is, as the Guardian has said ‘a master craftsman.’

Loved by critics, readers and authors alike, John Harvey’s books have sold over 1 million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages. The first Charlie Resnick novel, Lonely Hearts, was named by The Times as one of the '100 Best Crime Novels of the Century'. His first novel featuring Detective Inspector Frank Elder, Flesh and Blood, won the CWA Silver Dagger in 2004, and a Barry Award for the Best British Crime Novel published in the US in 2004. In 2007 John Harvey was awarded the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger. He was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Nottingham in 2009 and by the University of Hertfordshire in 2013.

John has written for television and radio and, a published poet himself, between 1977 and 1999 ran Slow Dancer Press, publishing work by such writers as Simon Armitage and Lee Harwood, Kirsty Gunn and Jill Dawson, Sharon Olds and Lucille Clifton. Out of Silence, his New and Selected Poems, is published by Smith/Doorstop this May.

Author Photo © Molly Boiling 2012

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Book Info

Publication date

18th June 1999


John Harvey

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University of Wales Press


220 pages


Religious subjects depicted in art



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