Salisbury, Francis Owen [Frank], CVO

Artist, born on 18 December 1874 in what is now the Inn on the Green, Leyton Road, Harpenden. He served an apprenticeship at the stained glass works of his older brother Henry in St. Albans and continued to work in that medium. (Methodist examples are at Wesley's Chapel, London; Sudbury, North London; Chapel Street, Penzance; High Street, Harpenden; Poplar; and Cropready, Oxon; also formerly in Richmond College Chapel.)

But he is now remembered mainly for his portraits and his paintings of historic occasions such as the burial procession of the 'unknown warrior' passing the Cenotaph in London (1921) and the coronation of George VI. While studying at the Royal Academy he won the Landseer Scholarship, which made possible a formative visit to Italy. A skilful and productive artist in the tradition of the English School, his autobiography, Portrait and Pageant (1944; revised edition, under the title Sarum Chase, 1953) is a roll-call of the great and illustrious who sat for him. Methodists whose portraits he painted include Dr. H. Maldwyn Hughes and Leslie D. Weatherhead.

His posthumous portraits of early Methodists include Susanna Wesley, Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke and there are no fewer than three portraits of John Wesley himself.

He received an honorary LLS from St Andrews University in 1935 and was appointed CVO in 1938. After his wife's death he became a member at the City Temple under the ministry of Leslie D. Weatherhead. He died on 31 August 1962 and is buried in the St. Nicholas church graveyard, Harpenden. His home, 'Sarum Chase' (a name suggested by his friendSamuel Parkes Cadman) at Hampstead, was left to the British Council of Churches. Described dismissively by Pevsner as 'unashamed Hollywood Tudor', it was sold in 1971 to the School of Economic Science, its contents being auctioned in 1985. His former home and studio, 'Red Gables' on West Common, Harpenden, now houses offices of the Rothhampstead Research Institute.


'The larger-than-lifesize image of Wesley portrayed by most biographers during this period was matched in oils by distinguished British artist and Methodist, Frank O. Salisbury. In 1927, he happened to visit Wesleys House and Museum in City Road, London, and noticed that the building was quite dilapidated and did not heve "a good portrait of John Wesley". Salisbury agreed to paint one if the Methodist authorities would restore the building. Using Enoch Wood's bust of Wesley, … as a starting point, along with relics from the museum such as Wesley's clerical bands and preaching robe, Salisbury produced a striking portrait that has become a favorite, if not a standard twentieth-century portrait… The statuesque proportions of the image belie Wesley's diminutive physical stature and present a grand reflection of his romanticized reputation among his Methodist followers.'

Richard P. Heitzenrater, The Elusive Mr. Wesley (Nashville, 1984), II p.194

  • B. Aquila Barber, 'An Artist among the Prophets', in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, January 1935, pp.41-52
  • B.A. Barber, The Art of Frank O. Salisbury (Leigh on Sea, 1936)
  • Times, 1 September 1962
  • Methodist Recorder, 6 September 1962
  • Nigel McMurray, Frank O. Salisbury, 'Painter Laureate' (2003)