University of Buckingham lecturer wins one of world’s most prestigious prizes

A University of Buckingham lecturer and his daughter have won one of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes for a fascinating book that explores the relationship between the book of Revelation and how it is interpreted in art, music and literature.

The ACE / Mercers’ Book Award is the only prize for a publication that notably advances a public understanding of the relationship between the visual arts and religious experience, beliefs and practice.

Philospohy lecturer Professor Anthony O’Hear and his daughter Natasha, Honorary Lecturer in Theology, Imagination and the Arts at the University of St Andrews, were awarded the prestigious accolade for their book Picturing the Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation in the Arts over Two Millennia published by Oxford University Press.

The judges included Tim Marlow, the Artistic Director of the Royal Academy of Arts, Eamon Duffy, Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity at Cambridge and Sandy Nairne, former Director of the National Portrait Gallery.

Few people know much about the original context of The Book of Revelation or the multiplicity of different ways in which they have been interpreted, according to Professor O’ Hear. The book fills these gaps in a striking and original way by means of ten concise thematic chapters which explain the origins of these concepts from the book of Revelation in an accessible way. These explanations are augmented and developed via a carefully selected sample of the ways in which the concepts have been treated by artists through the centuries.

The 120 visual examples are drawn from a wide range of time periods and media including the ninth-century Trier Apocalypse, thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman Apocalypse Manuscripts such as the Lambeth and Trinity Apocalypses, the fourteenth-century Angers Apocalypse Tapestry, fifteenth-century Apocalypse altarpieces by Van Eyck and Memling, Dürer and Cranach’s sixteenth-century Apocalypse woodcuts, and more recently a range of works by William Blake, J.M.W. Turner, Max Beckmann, as well as film posters and film stills, cartoons, and children’s book illustrations.

The final chapter demonstrates the continuing resonance of all the themes in contemporary religious, political, and popular thinking, while throughout the book a contrast will be drawn between those readers of Revelation who have seen it in terms of earthly revolutions in the here and now, and those who have adopted a more spiritual, other-worldly approach.

Anthony O’ Hear is also Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and has been a government advisor on education to five secretaries of state for education. He has been editor of the journal Philosophy since 1995, and is the author of many books and articles.

Prof O’ Hear said: “We are obviously thrilled by this – which we heard about as we were being driven along Route 443, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, hemmed in by apocalyptic walls – all very symbolic because Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe that the Last Judgement will occur in the Kidron Valley, between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. We were later there at the very place.”

University of Buckingham Vice-Chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon said: “I was absolutely thrilled to read of this great distinction which brings much honour to Professor O’Hear and his daughter Natasha and to the University.  It is a major milestone in the academic life of our University that Professor O’Hear has been given this award.”