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Thursday, July 24, 2014

M is for Martin - John Martin - An Artist Post

A long time ago (well it certainly feels that way to me) I spent a semester in London. I studied art history and Shakespeare and life was pretty simple considering my mom paid for my whole trip and all I had to do was enjoy it and get good grades. (I did both.) It was a wonderful trip that I think of almost every week of my life for one reason or another. It was the opening of a different world to me--a look at art, people, history, and beauty in a way I'd never experienced before. It changed me profoundly and gave me a longing for things I didn't know was there. I still have that longing, but now I fulfil it in a different way. I can't travel to all the places and things I want to see and experience, but that doesn't mean I can't experience them. What an amazing thing the internet can be!

I was browsing the CGFA art site again because I wanted to do another artist post and I discovered the name of the artist that deeply moved me when I first saw his art in the Tate Gallery in London. I still have the photos I secretly took when I was only 20. I have looked at those photos from time to time since and have often wondered who could paint such scenes and why he did it. Now I know--John Martin, (1789-1854). He was an English Victorian artist of rare ability. He was not appreciated by the art world at the time, but was loved by the commoners.

These were the three huge pieces of artwork that just astonished me in London:

The Last Judgement, 1845


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If you click and enlarge it, you will see why it was such an astonishing painting. The fine detail work and the faces of those perishing and of those who have been saved are deeply moving. This painting takes up a wall and is over 6' tall and 10' wide. It is meant to be the centerpiece of the three (two to follow). This painting strikes me today as it did then. Powerful. What side will I be on in the last judgement? What about you?

The Great Day of His Wrath, 1851-1853

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From Wiki:
The Great Day of His Wrath, was intended to be hung to the right of The Last Judgment, and continues the theme of destruction and damnation depicted on the right side of the central image.


The Book of Revelation describes a scene that is painted by Martin: "... and, lo, there was a great earthquake and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair and the moon became as blood. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together and every mountain and island were moved out of their places." The collapsing pile of rocks to the right of the painting are the buildings of an entire city falling into an abyss.

When you click this one to see the larger scene, you will see just how detailed this one is. It is almost as large as the previous one and just as terrifying in its subject matter.

The Plains of Heaven, 1851


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After the other two, you can probably guess what this one is - peaceful eternity. It is hard to know what heaven will really be like, but I do think this is a beautiful work of art. The crystal clear blue water - the purity therein - the white robes of the faithful and the color found in the flowers and the hills - well, it is all rather stunning to me. Praise God I do know where I am going because of the deep deep love of Jesus! Whether it be something like this or something far far better, I am so grateful for salvation!

This last one from John Martin I thought was downright astonishing. I have never seen this one up close, but I am so grateful for the technology available to me so that I can see it up close here.

Belshazzar's Feast, 1821

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The details on this are bewildering and just spectacular. To see it up close, click this link. His use of white  is finely done to show light and add focus to specific areas. Make sure you don't miss the writing on the wall!

So that is just a little bit of John Martin's work. Had you ever heard about him? Wiki has a good write up about him that was full of fascinating details about his life. I'd love to see his artwork up close again. It moved me then and looking at it here, it moves me now. How a person can convey the depth he does is truly beyond my scope of understanding!

So what do you think of John Martin's work?


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1 comment:

Meg Falciani said...

I never have heard of him, but wow -- they are amazing works! Yes, after the chaos of the others, the peaceful feeling of The Plains of Heaven is exactly what I'd imagine heaven to be like.