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john martin paintings

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- What spurred John Martin to Paint elemental catastrophe and divine retribution? Introduction On my first visit to the Tate I was completely unprepared for the room of the three awesome and enormous John Martin Paintings. I am also going to compare and contrast the three paintings with works I found on a school trip to Berlin. In this essay, I intend to focus on the three judgement paintings by John Martin. I am going to explore the ways in which Martin found inspiration for his art, his reasons for painting elemental catastrophe and divine retribution, what made him stand out from other artists of the same generation and why his work made him one of the most popular and successful British artists of the 19th Century. The three judgement paintings were Martin's last major works produced before his death in 1854 and are thought by some critics to be his masterpieces. During the late 18th Century, assumptions about what was acceptable began to change meaning that artists were able to paint anything that appealed to their imaginations. Writers and artists began to explore the artistic and emotional qualities of immensity, darkness and terror. The word 'Sublime' was used to describe the feelings resulting from the representation of these qualities. JMW Turner highlighted the power of nature compared with the helplessness of mankind, and used landscape to evoke heightened emotional states. Turner's ideas were developed and exaggerated by John Martin. Martin's paintings were dismissed as vulgar by the Royal Academy, but were however extremely popular with the public. The highlight of this success was his Judgement Series, completed in 1853 and exhibited across Britain and the United States for twenty years after his death. ...read more.


However, it was the lyric's; 'But to some, another fun day in Babylon' that really caught my attention as the word Babylon has come up before in my research. The Last Judgement In the central canvas, The Last Judgement, John Martin's most ambitious use of composition separates the good and evil by a great gorge just off centre. The sloping curves lead from each side towards the central empty space. Similarly to The Great Day of His Wrath, The Last Judgement illustrates the central event of the Book of Revelation, and Martin assembles his scene from passages in the story. The last bridge over the valley of Jehoshaphat is collapsing and a handful of figures dash across it, to the security of Jerusalem. Sinners beg as the world falls apart. The damned, on the right, include a young woman known as Herodias's daughter and the whore of Babylon, dressed in purple and scarlet, with a rosary bracelet dangling from her wrist, pleading in vain, others still clinging to their ceremonial dress- a crown and crucifix - as they scrabble for survival (figure 3). The forces of evil commanded by Satan are defeated and the armies of Gog and Magog identified as the nations in the four corners of the earth, (New Testament, Book of Revelation) tumble into the bottomless pit. Meanwhile, across the great divide, above the crystal palaces of the New Jerusalem, is God on a throne in heaven sitting in judgement, surrounded by the twenty four elders seated on benches wearing crowns and dressed in pure white robes, while they witness the passing of judgement (Chapter 4). The four angels are posted at the corners of the throne having sounded their trumpets after the opening of the seventh seal (Chapter 8). ...read more.


I also spotted the four angels playing trumpets which represented the opening of the seventh seal in Martin's The Last Judgement. Compared to Martin, Cranach used inhuman beasts that look to be taking over the earth and killing mankind (figure 15). The darkness of the last panel was similar to The Great Day of His Wrath creating the feeling of the ending of the world. I noticed the crowd of people screaming (figure 13), the facial expressitions help create the dark and horrible atmosphere of the painting. However, Martin used the crowds of people in a different context, with his images of the Blessed in The Last Judgement (figure 4). The panels were not as high up on the wall but the reflection of the lights made it hard for me to see some areas, for this reason some of my photographs are blurred. In my opinion, the figures are larger and the overall paintings are busier with a lot more going on. Conclusion The beginning of the 19th Century was the period of the Romantic Movement which meant that it was a period of change and revolution in human rights. As a result of the French revolution previously, artists began to rebel against Neo-classical and traditions and look more into their own experience and imagination. John Martin had other possible influences, he developed and exaggerated Turner's ideas, was influenced by Mary Shelley's sci-fi novel, The Last Man and William Blake's visionary art and poetry. William Feaver says that Martin's Painting is designed to draw our attention to the dangers of great social concern at the time, of 'over population', as well as to 'themes of empires rotten at the core' (Feaver p71- The Art of John Martin). Other events in Martin's life such as the mayhem and destruction of the Napoleonic war may have had some kind of impact on his work. ...read more.

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