Painting: Primitive Methodists at Prayer

Primitive Methodists at Prayer

William Holt Yates Titcomb (1858-1930)

Primitive Methodists at Prayer, an oil on canvas, was on display in 1889 at the Dudley Museum & Art Gallery. This painting won more international medals than any other St. Ives work and is the first of three paintings that Titcomb completed of the Primitive Methodist congregation of the Fore Street Chapel in St. Ives. Although the son of an Anglican bishop, Titcomb was fascinated with the passion with which the St. Ives fishermen practised their faith - a faith which they called the "brightest and best" part of life. The simplicity of the chapel, the sparseness of the congregation and the humbleness of their attire only serve to highlight the intensity of belief.

The painting shows the interior of the Primitive Methodist chapel on Fore Street, St Ives, where Titcomb lived for part of each year. The occasion depicted appears to be a prayer meeting following a summer evening preaching service. The preacher stands in the high pulpit, and below him is a remnant of the original congregation, including in the foreground some chattering boys and two elderly fishermen dressed in their simple workaday garb, and shown in attitudes of prayer on the plain wooden benches. The picture’s simplicity, naturalness and integrity assured its wide appeal, and the Primitive Methodist Church readily acclaimed it as ‘a nation’s picture’.

3. Primitive Methodism, Geoffrey Milburn, page 79