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Visiting researchers

Dr Naomi Billingsley

Dr Naomi BillingsleyVisiting Research Fellow, Centre for Arts and the Sacred


Address: The John Rylands Research Institute
The John Rylands Library
150 Deansgate
M3 3EH 


Naomi Billingsley is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the John Rylands Research Institute at the University of Manchester. Her research is at the intersection of the histories of Christianity and art in Britain, especially in the Romantic period. Her current project ‘The Formation and Reception of the Macklin Bible’ examines an important illustrated Bible, published between 1791 and 1800.

Naomi completed her PhD at the University of Manchester (2012-2015) on the figure of Christ in William Blake’s pictorial works. She was then Bishop Otter Scholar for Theology and the Arts in the Diocese of Chichester, and taught Art History at Birkbeck, University of London.

Naomi is a graduate of the MA in Christianity and the Arts (2011) and holds a BA in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge (Magdalene, 2010). 

Research interests and PhD supervision
  • Christianity and Art in Britain
  • William Blake
  • Romanticism
  • The Bible in Art

My research is concerned with the intersection of the history of Christianity and the history of art in Britain, especially in the Romantic period. In other words, I am interested in how Christianity and art influenced each other in Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. My current project is concerned with the Macklin Bible – an ambitious illustrated Bible, published between 1791 and 1800, with plates based on specially-commissioned paintings. William Blake remains an ongoing research interest: I am currently working on several publications emerging from my PhD thesis on Blake’s depictions of Christ. During my time as Bishop Otter Scholar in the Diocese of Chichester, I also developed an interest in ecclesiastical commissions of art (especially in the twentieth century), and contemporary reception of art in a religious context. 


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Selected publications


  • (forthcoming) The Visionary Art of William Blake: Christianity, Romanticism and the Pictorial Imagination (I.B. Tauris,2018)

Journal articles

  • (forthcoming) ‘An ‘apostle of futurity’: William Blake as herald of a universal religious worldview’, in Visual Culture in Britain (c.2019, special issue: ‘William Blake: The Man from the Future’, eds. Colin Trodd and Jason Whittaker).
  • (forthcoming) ‘Re-viewing Blake’s Paradise Regained’, Religion and the Arts (c.2019, special issue: ‘Picturing Paradise in Nineteenth Century British and American Art’, edited by James Romaine and Rachel Hostetter-Smith). 

Book chapter

  • ‘Citizens of “London” as Members of Christ’s Divine Body in William Blake’s Biblical Illustrations’, in Ben Quash, Aaron Rosen, Chloë Reddaway (eds.), Visualising a Sacred City: London, Art and Religion (I.B.Tauris, 2017), pp. 89-101.

Catalogue essay

  • (forthcoming) ‘Blake’s Felpham Biblical Illustrations’ for an exhibition catalogue on Blake in Sussex planned by the National Trust (2018).
Expertise and public engagement

I am interested in developing ways to communicating my work through public engagement activities and widening participation initiatives.

Previous projects have included:

  • Activities for the public programme associated with the exhibition ‘Burning Bright: William Blake and the Art of the Book’ at the John Rylands Library in 2013.
  • A discussion group, a popular blog, a pastoral resource and an art pilgrimage trail in my work in the Diocese of Chichester (2015-2016).
  • Curating a virtual reality tour for the Big Blake Project (2016).

I am happy to hear from individuals or organisations interested in developing public engagement or media activities related to my research interests – especially William Blake, and religious art in Britain. 

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