[ART] John Martin's Sublime Landscapes 🎨

in art •  7 months ago

Chronologically, John Martin's life for the most part belonged in the 19th century, but stylistically and ideationally he was a child of the late 18th century. He was born in the Revolutionary Year of 1789, and the early romantic trends in philosophy, literature and art characterized his entire production.

Today, few remembers John Martin anymore, even when it comes to art historians. But this makes him all the more interesting: by studying what our own time doesn't appreciate you can learn a lot. In Martin's apocalyptic and often chaotic landscapes with biblical and literary figures, his contemporaries saw both a pictorial boldness bordering on madness, and a near perfect expression of what Burke called "the sublime" - the romantic concept that represented the "strongest feeling which the mind is capable of feeling." Simply put, Burke argued that the sublime can be discerned when beauty exceeds the dimensions and constraints of human perception.

Despite being an unskilled small town boy on the Scottish border and constantly being in quarrels with the Royal Academy, Martin was a respected artist. The contrast is great against his predecessor, the thirty year older William Blake. Blake's mythological images, despite their loaded content, are calm and transparent, with clear contours. In Martin's large and dramatic scenes, the movement and intensity are one with the landscape itself - the spectator is drawn into the images like in a maelstrom. Martin saw nature with the eyes of an 18th century Romantic and portrayed it with a consistent topographical and meteorological exaggeration. The paintings offered the urban bourgeoisie who visited the art galleries an opportunity to live out their strong emotions.

"The Assuaging of the Waters" (1840) is one of John Martin's more quiet and peaceful works. It almost seems tacky and kitschy to our eyes, with its pink skies and seductively swirling water. The sun has broken through the clouds and the dove, sent out from the ark, has picked its olive branch. But it's contrasted by a non-biblical raven - black as well as white has survived the deluge. However symbolic they may be, they're only details in the composition. The real motive is the overwhelming sea and rock landscape. Today, it's difficult to overwhelm any brain suffering from sensory overload by having been marinated in and dulled by mass media and fast paced Hollywood junk since day one. Perhaps a judgement day, such as in many of Martin's pictures, would be a suitable cure.

 @SteemSwede

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Thank you for reminding me about John Martin's art. He is quite favorite among the artists here in Scotland, and must in Edinburgh College of Art. The paintings are breathtaking, the capture your mind and bring a lot of thoughts, every picture tell you a story, tells you how fragile the human being is in front of natural forces, he could reflect the drama of human life and that was also very well used for biblical subjects. Every time when I see those painting I have a will to try but every time just back up, because it is too complex. But one day I will do it, it is on my agenda :)

Thank you for sharing this post, @steemswede - these paintings must be amazing to see in real life: I'm imagining them as being massive, which may be more to do with the resonance they emit than actuality, I don't know...but I can definitely feel waves of energy coming off them, even on the screen and in a small size like this! They do remind me of Blake, but somehow they are more disturbing. I mean that in a good way though - like the quote saying, "Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." I will definitely read more about John Martin's work...

Finally, the quote you used, from Burke regarding "the sublime" - the romantic concept that represented the "strongest feeling which the mind is capable of feeling."; and your summary that, "the sublime can be discerned when beauty exceeds the dimensions and constraints of human perception." WOW! THIS! I experience this every day when I am out in nature, and this comes about as close to describing the indescribable as it gets! Thank you!!!

Jay x

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Happy to hear they still manage to unsettle :)
Yes, they are quite sizeable indeed. "The Destruction of Pompei and Herculaneum" (the top image) measures 253 by 161.6 cm. Both that one and "The Great Day of His Wrath" (below) reside in Tate gallery if you happen to be in London. I highly recommend this book if you want to know more about Martin: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11206854-john-martin

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Wow - they really must be something to stand in front of! The resonance is strong enough viewing them like this, never mind at that size in the flesh... I tend to avoid London like the plague (if you'll pardon the pun!) but if I'm ever there again, I would love to see them in the Tate. Thank you for the extra information, @steemswede <3

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I hear you :) Not a fan of big and bustling cities either. I've unfortunately only seen one of his paintings live, the "Macbeth" painting in Nat Gallery in Edinburgh. I wish some museum in Europe would put together an exhibition with his whole oeuvre.

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Wow, I just checked that one out and it's pretty damned epic! And your question makes me wonder how on earth they do transport such massive and delicate pieces when they move them for exhibitions... I fuss enough over my comparatively tiny canvases (e.g. 18 x 24"/40 x 60")... I can't imagine being the guy responsible for shipping something that huge and virtually priceless...

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I'm actually not sure how they do it, but when I shipped my own paintings (about 120x180 cm) from Sweden to a Canadian buyer, I rolled them and put them in hard cardboard tubes. I highly doubt they roll old museum pieces like these though!

Just wow.things gone a be different now.go ahead. thank you.keep sharing.

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Very good topic friend greetings from venezuela I follow and vote

Good sharing. Will google more for his artworks.

Unreal! The skill it would take to create works like that!

I have spent my life painting and looking at paintings and somehow missed this artist. Thank you - passionate work.

Dude - Really enjoyed this. Serendipitously so - the word "sublime" is a great buried treasure within myself - thank you for helping to unearth it with your creative share.

I just realized I had spelt your account name wrong in my steemvoter...typo....ooops. Just fixed it!

Grateful to be sharing the STEEM/Crypto Journey with you Brother.

Best Regards Always All Ways!

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Super happy to hear you enjoyed it Mike! There'll be plenty more art articles to come. All the best my Canadian brother from another mother!

Thank you for sharing this informations about John Martin .