By Darla McCammon
Many of the artists we discuss in this column had work that was not considered outstanding or valuable until after their death.
Thus, the term “starving artist” loomed large as a great number of them lived in poverty. John Martin, a prolific painter from London, was unusual in that he was probably the most popular artist of his time—while he was yet alive. He could, and did, command a high price for his work. He and his wife lived in luxury. His work was also unusual in other ways. He did majestic landscapes based on biblical themes. He depicted the supreme being, God, elevated over tiny figures of men and women. He created scenes featuring much drama and intensity in which the natural world was the major characteristic while mortal men struggled on earth.
“The Plains of Heaven” based on Revelations Chapter 21 was created in 1853. It was part of a series called “The Judgement Days.” In this work, Martin shows the “good” people of the world dressed in white and gathered in a paradise described in the biblical vrse “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth.”
He was not always wealthy. Born in a one-room cottage in 1789, his father later scheduled him to be an apprentice by coach-building and painting designs on each new coach. Instead, a dispute landed him with an Italian artist who moved him to London in 1806 where, at age 19, he married the love of his life. He took eagerly to art tutelage and began entering work in the Royal Academy. Several rejections soon became success as he created the Old Testament landscapes that were called “sublime” by most critics.
He also found several wealthy patrons asking to purchase his work and in 1816, his “Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon” was acclaimed. It was not long until his paintings were bringing in substantial commissions. He was able to buy a house in a prestigious area of London and began to associate with other artists, writers and scientists along with nobility including princes, kings, tsars and more. He became a master engraver and earned more wealth through his engravings than he did from his paintings.
As he finished the painting “The Plains of Heaven” in 1853, he suffered a seizure which left him without speech or the use of his right hand. It was said he simply lost the will to live. Within the year he died in early 1854. The Tate Museum in London has many of his paintings.
Please contact Darla at (574) 527-4044 or at [email protected] if you would like to exhibit your work at Warsaw City Hall.
- The Warsaw City Hall Gallery will have the Bondar and Waters pastel exhibit on display through August.
- The North Webster Library will have a Robert Hudson exhibit on display through Aug. 31.
- The Gallery at Rua in Warsaw is exhibiting Steve Sult’s “Sitting on the Fence” collection now through Sept. 18.
- The Lakeland Art Gallery will exhibit Marcy Mitchell’s pastel works through August.
- The Fine Arts Festival sponsored by Churubusco Library will take place from 2 to 7 p.m. Aug. 24.