Image of From left, Professor Roy Howat, Helen Macdonald, Agnes Thurnauer
From left, Professor Roy Howat, Helen Macdonald, Agnes Thurnauer

Musician, author, and artist elected as Honorary Fellows

Three people eminent in their fields of music, literature, and art – Roy Howat, Helen Macdonald, and Agnes Thurnauer – have been elected as Honorary Fellows of Jesus College.

Professor Roy Howat

Ayrshire-born Roy Howat enjoys an international career as a concert pianist and scholar, with particular renown as a leading expert in French music.

After studying at the (now) Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, he took up a Music Scholarship at King’s College, Cambridge.

During his three-year Junior Research Fellowship at Jesus College, Roy wrote the acclaimed book Debussy in Proportion, premièred unknown piano pieces by Debussy, played violin in London period orchestras, and became one of the founding editors of the Œuvres complètes de Claude Debussy, a now-renowned scholarly edition for which he edited most of Debussy’s solo piano music.

Roy has produced authoritative editions of much of Fauré’s music; a Dover critical edition of Chabrier’s piano music; another influential book, The Art of French Piano Music; and numerous book chapters and articles. He has now edited Chopin’s Études for the new Peters Complete Chopin edition.

The breadth of Roy’s scholarship and performing led to his appointment in 2000 as one of the first Arts and Humanities Research Board Research Fellows at the Royal College of Music. He holds dual posts of Keyboard Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music and Senior Research Fellow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, as well as visiting attachments to the University of Adelaide and the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.

Helen Macdonald

Helen Macdonald is an award-winning writer, poet, and naturalist. They are also a powerful advocate for biodiversity.

Helen read English at Murray Edwards and was a Research Fellow at Jesus College from 2004-2007, working in the History and Philosophy of Science. While at Jesus they bought and trained a goshawk called Mabel.

H is for Hawk, their bestselling memoir of their time at Jesus, won the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction and the Costa Book of the Year award for 2014, and made The Sunday Times Bestsellers List within two weeks of publication.

Helen is also the author of Falcon (2006), Vesper Flights (2020), and three collections of poetry, including Shaler’s Fish (2001). They also write for The New York Times Magazine. They’ve written and presented TV documentaries for PBS and the BBC. Their novel Prophet, written with Sin Blaché, will be published in 2023. 

They have worked as a professional falconer and have assisted with the management of raptor research and conservation projects across Eurasia.

Helen’s distinction as a writer lies in their singular talent for combining genres in works that reach an exceptionally wide audience and which argue for the deep complexity of the natural world.

They write: “It’s important to consider how and why we value particular landscapes and creatures, and why we value some less than others. If you can instil wonderment and complication, you can forge in others attachments to the world.”

Agnes Thurnauer

Agnes Thurnauer is a Franco-Swiss artist whose work has been shown in a number of solo exhibitions across France and Europe, and is part of institutional collections such as the Musée National d’Art Moderne in the Pompidou Centre in Paris and widely represented in museum and private collections.

She has also lectured in Europe and the United States, and her writing on art has been extensively published.

In 2016, she was made a Chevalier (knight) of the Légion d'honneur, the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding contribution to the recipient’s field of expertise.

Her work, Matrices Chromatiques (which in 2017 was part of Jesus’ Sculpture in the Close exhibition), was installed at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris in 2020. The gallery had mostly housed only Monet’s work until Thurnauer’s sculptures were installed permanently to accompany them. 

In 2022, the Matisse museum in Nice, France, held a dialogue exhibition between her work and Matisse's.

Thurnauer held a memorable 2015 exhibition in Jesus, You. As part of that exhibition, three paintings of female figures were hung in Hall in the place of the portraits of three male Jesuans, and Thurnauer spoke about her desire to challenge the College community and broaden perspectives.