Picturing the Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation in the Arts over Two Millennia

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9780198779278: Picturing the Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation in the Arts over Two Millennia
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The book of Revelation has been a source of continual fascination for nearly two thousand years. Concepts such as The Lamb of God, the Four Horsemen, the Seventh Seal, the Beasts and Antichrist, the Whore of Babylon, Armageddon, the Millennium, the Last Judgement, the New Jerusalem, and the ubiquitous Angel of the Apocalypse have captured the popular imagination. One can hardly open a newspaper or click on a news web site without reading about impending financial or climate change Armageddon, while the concept of the Four Horsemen pervades popular music, gaming, and satire. Yet few people know much about either the basic meaning or original context of these concepts or the multiplicity of different ways in which they have been interpreted by visual artists in particular. The visual history of this most widely illustrated of all the biblical books deserves greater attention.

This 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 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, otherworldly approach.

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Review:

Well-organised, cogently argued, expertly composed, erudite yet approachable, and masterfully researched, Picturing the Apocalypse is a worthwhile tour among all things apocalyptic. The authors chart a clear path through a thicket of theological and æsthetic considerations without losing their way. (Eric Hoffman, The Fortean Times)

The judges...admired its tight, elegant and eloquent structure, its liveliness and accessibility, its timeliness and its originality and analysis of imagery and idea. (ACE/Mercers Book Award press release)

an incredibly rich book both in the variety of its illustrations and in the range of allusions explored ... This is a book which many different kinds of readers will derive much interest and benefit from reading. (Peter Costello, The Irish Catholic)

This fascinating book is written in an easy, at times almost conversational, style, without ever losing its academic credibility ... This book will be a useful resource for anyone interested in apocalyptic literature, mediaeval theology or the history of art. (Methodist Recorder)

Well-organised, cogently argued, expertly composed, erudite yet approachable, and masterfully researched, Picturing the Apocalypse is a worthwhile tour among all things apocalyptic. (Eric Hoffman, Fortean Times)

Picturing the Apocalypse is a strong work of reception history, and its appeal to contemporary scholarly analysis usually take a back seat to artistic representations and interpretations. This is especially important and useful in a book about Revelation, which resists easy scholarly analysis and categorization as vehemently as it resists simple visual representation. The thrill of the book is encountering the ways myriad artists, from medieval book illuminators to Reformation woodcut makers to 20th and 21st-century filmmakers, have contended with the overwhelming weirdness of John's Apocalypse. O'Hear and O'Hear spin this difficulty into a compelling narrative that surveys a landscape while also coming to rest on many of the beautiful, grotesque, terrifying, divine, and human vignettes found in the corpus of artistic receptions of Revelation. (Eric C. Smith, Reading Religion)

Sumptuously illustrated... The material is organised thematically around the central images of Revelation with exemplary clarity, and, as an added bonus, the authors cast insightful peripheral glances towards music, film and literature. (David Cornick, Reform Magazine)

A work of immense erudition, of consummate research and a demonstration of sublime analytical skills. (Joe Forshaw, On: Yorkshire Magazine)

'The Apocalypse is the glorious conclusion to the story of our redemption, or the moment when the Bible soars off into sci-fi: take your pick. The O'Hears, father and daughter, trace the extraordinary imaginative impact of the last book of the Bible on visual artists. While exploring the dynamic power of this final book of Scripture they take us on an exciting journey, from Dürer to D. H. Lawrence and from Memling to Ingmar Bergman. Apocalypse is a text which yields so many interpretations that it is bound to be puzzling, but this gentle, artistic book is a tribute to the visionary of Patmos' abiding power to inspire.' (A.N. Wilson)

Revelation, the Bible's one visionary book, is often dismissed either as a fantasy for fundamentalists or as a literary and theological aberration. In this erudite and endlessly fascinating book, Natasha and Anthony O'Hear show that it is in fact one of the great books of the world, a rich source of imagery, metaphor, and moral insight that has inspired artists and thinkers of every age; and should inspire everybody with its message of gentle resistance to malign power. (Bryan Appleyard)

About the Author:

Natasha O'Hear specialises in artistic interpretations of the Book of Revelation. She completed a PhD on the subject at Oxford University in 2008 and this led to her first monograph with OUP in 2011 Contrasting Images of the Book of Revelation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Art: A Case Study in Visual Exegesis. She has also published several articles on the subject. Having formerly held a Lectureship in New Testament Theology at Worcester College, Oxford, she now teaches at Burlington Danes Academy in West London. Anthony O'Hear is Professor of Philosophy at Buckingham University and Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. He 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 including The Great Books: From The Iliad and The Odyssey to Goethe's Faust: A Journey Through 2,500 Years of the West's Classic Literature (Icon Books, 2007), Plato's Children (Gordon Square, 2005), and Philosophy in the New Century (Continuum, 2001).

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9780199689019: Picturing the Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation in the Arts over Two Millennia

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