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  • MARTIN, John ('Mad')
    1789-1854






    British painter



  • John ('Mad') Martin was the most spectacularly melodramatic history painter of the early 19th century. He exhibited at the RA from 1811 and soon attained fame with his Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still (!816) and similar works in the next few years. He developed a type of enormous canvas, crowded with tiny figures set in fantastic architecture and beneath lowering skies that now seems merely Hollywood, but which seems to have influenced the French Romantics. He chose subjects like The Bard: 'Ruin seize thee, ruthless King!' (1817: Newcastle), and the Destruction of Herculaneum (1822: Manchester); but the public taste soon faded, to be revived by the Coronation of Queen Victoria (1839: Tate), although he returned to the melodramatic with The Great Day of His Wrath (c.1853: London, Tate).

    He also illustrated Milton's Paradise Lost with very fine mezzotints in 1827. The Balston Coll., now in London (V&A), is very large. Other works are in the Royal Coll. and in Beckenham, Kent (Bethlem Royal Hospital), Cambridge (Fitzwm), Glasgow, Liverpool, Scarborough, and Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare Memorial Theatre)).

    His brother, Jonathan, in a fit of insanity, set fire to York Minster, and burnt the medieval choir-stalls.

  • Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)





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