Lovingly restored: An art fan views The Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum during the John Martin: Apocalypse exhibition at the Tate Britain

Exhibition: Apocalypse, John Martin

John Martin’s “The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah” first grabbed me on exhibition at the Laing Gallery in Newcastle many years ago. The shear scale of the atmosphere really caught my eye and I remember standing in front of the massive canvas for a very long time. Something about that vibrant red glow, beneath the crusted earthy brown, that lit the world in front of you. It really was a vision and I can’t believe I missed the opening of this restoration show in London! I’m looking forward to making up for it in the next few weeks, and revisiting a powerful and influential artist from my early years… Here’s the press release, get along and see for yourself:

John Martin

21 September 2011–15 January 2012

Tate Britain
Linbury Galleries
Open daily 10.00–18.00 and until 22.00 every Friday from October.

For tickets visit www.tate.org.uk/tickets or call 020 7887 8888

“John Martin (1789–1854) was a key figure in the nineteenth-century art world, renowned for his dramatic scenes of apocalyptic destruction and biblical catastrophe. Tate Britain’s major exhibition will be the first show dedicated to his paintings for over 30 years, and the largest display of his works seen in public since 1822. Bringing together his most famous paintings from collections around the world, as well as previously unseen and newly-restored works, the exhibition will reassess this singular figure in art history, and reveal the enduring influence of his apocalyptic art on painting, cinema and popular spectacle.

John Martin at Tate Britain will chart the rise, fall and resurrection of a unique artistic reputation. Trained as a herald-painter in the North of England, Martin went on to create some of the nineteenth-century’s most widely exhibited works of art. The exhibition will showcase some of his best known oil paintings, including Belshazzar’s Feast 1820 (on loan from a private collection and not seen in public for over 20 years) and The Great Day of His Wrath 1851–3. Such works travelled the country during his lifetime, and toured the world after his death, thrilling audiences from New York to Sydney with their painstaking detail and epic sense of scale and drama. His iconic mezzotint illustrations for The Bible and Milton’s Paradise Lost will also be on display, alongside his brilliant landscape watercolours. Martin’s profound scientific interests will be shown in his pioneering illustrations of dinosaurs, based on the latest fossil discoveries, and in his unrealised but visionary engineering projects, including plans for the embankment of the Thames and a metropolitan railway for London.

Biblical scenes: The Last Judgement, pictured, forms part of the exhibition. The work depicts people falling at the mercy of angels as storm clouds gather.

While his art was hugely popular, Martin remained something of an outsider, scorned by figures like John Ruskin and William Wordsworth and shunned by the Royal Academy. Instead, the theatrical drama and spectacle of his paintings earned him such fans as Charles Dickens, Edward Bulwer-Lytton and the Bronte sisters, as well as Prince Albert and Leopold, King of the Belgians. His decision to show works at popular venues like Piccadilly’s Egyptian Hall meant that he engaged directly with a mass market rather than an academic elite. Featuring key loans from Musée du Louvre, Paris and National Gallery of Art, Washington, this exhibition will re-evaluate how Martin’s populism fits into the story of British art, and how his work connects with the culture of today.

John Martin was born in Northumberland in July 1789, where he trained with a coach painter. After moving to London in 1806 he worked as a glass painter before embarking on a career as an imaginative artist. Although spurned by the British art establishment, he received awards in France and Belgium and his art was known around the world. Heavily engaged with his engineering speculations in the 1830s and 1840s, he continued to paint, creating some of his most original works at the very end of his life. He died on the Isle of Man in 1854.

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, John Martin, 1852.

The exhibition is part of the Great British Art Debate supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund. It has been organised in partnership with the Laing, Newcastle, from where it will travel to the Millenium Galleries, Sheffield. The exhibition is curated at Tate Britain by Martin Myrone, Curator of 18th and 19th Century British Art, Tate Britain, with Anna Austen, Curatorial Assistant, Tate Britain. The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue by Tate Publishing.”

Text by e-flux, Photographs Courtesy of The Daily Mail

Jonathan works as a professional artist and illustrator. He also curates exhibitions, enjoys travelling for inspiration and likes making cocktails. www.illustrationbyjonathan.co.uk

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