Well, the end is nigh, at least, with the John Martin: Apocalypse exhibition opening at Tate Britain in less than two weeks, on 21 September.

I’m Martin Myrone, the curator of the exhibition at Tate Britain, and I’ve been working on the show with the team here at Tate and our exhibition partners at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle and the Millennium Galleries, Sheffield for the last two and a half years on planning, researching, selecting and organising this exhibition. You may have seen the great version of the show which appeared at Newcastle and Sheffield earlier this year. The Tate show is even larger, with a total of over 120 works - major paintings, sketches and watercolours, and his mezzotints and engineering plans. This will be the biggest collection of his works ever seen, and a chance to reassess this fascinating and exciting nineteenth-century artist.

Even if the name of John Martin isn’t familiar to you, you will probably know some of his most famous paintings, like The Great Day of his Wrath from the Tate collection. Spectacular paintings like this helped define the image of the apocalypse for the modern age. They’ve been used on album covers and as book illustrations, and in all sorts of other contexts (just try a quick internet search). It’s not hard to see the resonances with blockbuster cinema and computer games, and all the images of disaster and ecological threat which flood the media.

John Martin, 'The Great Day of His Wrath' 1851-3
John Martin
The Great Day of His Wrath 1851-3

The exhibition will, we hope, celebrate this extraordinary painter, and his strange and often wonderful images. But we hope that the show will be really thought-provoking - and maybe provocative - as well as hugely enjoyable. It’s been put together as part of the Great British Art Debate, and John Martin’s art really should prompt debate - about ‘good taste’ and ‘bad taste’, about whether ‘great art’ can be truly popular, and if the art of the past can connect with life today.

I will be posting blogs in the next days, as the show is being installed and opened, where I will talk about some of these themes in a bit more detail. And I’d be really pleased to hear from you about these questions, about John Martin and his art, and about the exhibition once it opens. What would you like to hear more about?

John Martin: Apocalypse is at Tate Britain, 21 September 2011 - 15 January 2012.



Ruth Baumberg

Hi, I posted yesterday, but can't see my blog. As soon as I saw Death of the First Born in the exhibition, it said to me that the Egyptian Temple was the same as Temple Mill(s) in Leeds, and the dates intertwined nicely too. Now Temple Mills is one of the Victorian Society's 10 most endangered buildings of 2011, I looked up its architect Joseph Bonomi,the Younger(1796 -1878) on Wikipedia, and found that he was John Martin's son-in-law, so the connection is now definitely there. Email me if you want some pictures of Temple Mills showing the similarity!Not just a hunch, but a reality but who influenced whom, I don't know

Keiko Nishiyama

Hi, I'm a big fan of John Martin's in Japan. My first encounter with his works was back in mid '90s. Whenever I had a chance to visit London, I always went to Tate to see his huge apocalypse paintings. I'm in charge of his fan page on mixi (Japan's largest SNS) and am looking forward to visiting London to see this magnificent exhibition!


I'm like a lot of other people who have already commented that they saw the John Martin paintings in their youth, and then they weren't on display any more. It was a great disappointment when I went to the Tate some years ago and found they were not there to see any more, so I'm really glad that these awesome spectacular works are back for us all to see again. Pompous art critics may scoff but I think they're wonderful!

Carlyle B.V. Braden

I'm really looking forward to this one, having seen only the big ones in your collection! Even if we only see close ups of his work, to mwe it will be worthwhile. At the advanced age of 6***, I am doing a B.tech 3-4 part time to catch up on my art after when viewing an early "hippie" type on our way to RISD, my mother disapproved! And she filled in all my uni application forms and got it wrong more than once!

Denyse Sanderson

I too discovered John Martin on a visit to the Tate in my late teens, and have always spent time sitting and contemplating them whenever I get the chance. I recently visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and was delighted to find a John Martin there too. I am looking forward to visiting the exhibition. Does this mean there will finally be reasonable size prints available for purchase?

Holly Lane

Dear Martin Myrone,

Thank you for organizing this important exhibition of a secretly personal favorite artist. I was first introduced to John Martin's paintings in my 19th C art history class. Though I was not suppose to...I fell in love with John Martin's paintings, they are so unabashedly dramatic, nothing timid about this painter's envisioning...the acute perspectives, brooding value contrasts and they churn with energy, yet compositionally hold together.

Will this exhibition be traveling to other venues? Perhaps the United States? All the Best, Holly


Amazing exhibition!


I worked a short walk from the Tate for some time and became a regular casual lunchtime visitor. I thought I "ought" to like the Turners, and did so in many cases, but it was Martin's work, which I stumbled on by accident, which really captured the imagination. Although now moved away, I very much hope to visit the exhibition.

Valeria Vera


May name is Valeria Vera, I'm chilean and unfortunately I couldn't go the the exhibition, but I like very much the Martin's work. I would like to ask if you can tell me other artists with some formal (visual) connection with this artist.

Also I ask if the influence in cinema or TV series, even the advertisement has some relation with the problem between that bad or good taste... I don't know, but I think the Martin work is quite deep, but I think the people just worry the first skin, the primary vision. Sorry for my English.


Valeria Vera

John Ferngrove

I recall my first visit to the Tate as a boy of 11, now over 40 years ago. For me the twin wonders of that day, as one who had yet to form an understanding of painting, were the Dalis and the epic Martin triptych that throbbed and glowed in a room all to itself. Over several visits to the Tate in my teenage years, the start and end of each trip would be to stand in aweful comtemplation of each of the Martins in turn. One day, I think in my twenties, I made a visit and they were not there. I wandered all around the gallery to see if they had been moved, but to no avail. It was an early lesson in the sad truth of life that what one most deeply values and admires will seldom converge with that of public or expert opinion. I must confess that somehow the Tate stopped being the Tate for me when the Martins left, and it was to be over thirty years before I would be tempted into another visit by the recent Vorticist exhibition. The discovery that there was to be an exhibition devoted to Martin was possibly the best feature of that wholly excellent day, and I look forward to my next visit as a sentimental homecoming.

Frédéric Ogée

Dear Martin,

Thank you so much for designing and putting up this Martin exhibition. It will be a unique event. I look forward to seeing it. Best wishes for the last (hectic) days of preparation! Frédéric