George Richardson Lecture 2013


Until the fifteenth century much art and architecture was anonymous. The effects of the Renaissance were to regard the virtuosity rather than the intention of the work, to place a material value upon devotional art and to celebrate the name of the artist. The attention to surface did not sit easily with the early Quakers. By the second half of the seventeenth century the Puritan iconoclasts had already been active in the destruction of religious images and the export of vain portraits. Quaker self-discipline took several forms including a taboo on figurative art, the ‘plaining’ of Quaker homes and the controversial adoption of alternatives in habits of speech and dress.

Some of these responses imply that one surface is more worthy than another on the ground that outward effect or behaviour signify an inner purity. In more recent times, however, such artists as Edward Hicks in Philadelphia and Joseph Edward Southall in Birmingham have overcome the traditional taboo to establish painting as a potent Quaker ministry.

The problem is one of definition and of the appropriate manner of regarding. What is executed in the course of prayer by Fra Angelico appears in the Florence tourist guide. And Shaker furniture now commands thousands of dollars in auction. The rehabilitation of art in Quaker faith becomes possible when the inward eye regards the deeper meaning.


Following a happy but unsuccessful time at school, Roger Homan started professional life as a houseparent in a school for boys who were recruited from the criminal courts.

After teaching appointments in secondary schools he took a post in teacher education and remained in a college that was to be merged with a polytechnic and subsequently became the University of Brighton in which he was made Professor of Religious Studies.

Roger holds master’s degrees in Politics and Theology. Instinct, doctoral study and early writings were all sociological. More recently his focus has been upon liturgiology, then research ethics, then religious aesthetics.

Most of his publications have been in journals such as Faith and Worship and Quaker Studies. The more pertinent of his books include The Ethics of Social Research (Longman, 1992) and The Art of the Sublime (Ashgate, 2006).


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