The art of John Martin (1789–1854) was phenomenally popular. His spectacular paintings of biblical catastrophes and vast landscape scenery moved and astonished nineteenth-century viewers from all social classes. Shown in public exhibitions in London and around the country, his pictures served as a form of blockbuster entertainment. His mezzotint prints illustrating epic scenes from Milton’s poem Paradise Lost and the Bible reached an even larger public, spreading his name globally in a new era of mass media.
Martin’s art was popular with the public, but he never achieved the official validation he desired. Critics attacked what they saw as his bombastic and repetitive style of painting. He made a fortune from his paintings and prints, but he also faced periods of financial struggle, and spent a huge amount of time on engineering projects which proved futile.
This exhibition explores the full range of Martin’s art: his oil paintings, drawings and watercolours, his extensive printmaking practice and his engineering plans. The exhibition is organised broadly chronologically, starting here with his earliest works. A theatrical display of his final paintings, the Last Judgement triptych, is presented in Room 5 every half hour.