John Martin : Apocalypse Now!, Hardback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


John Martin's many influential works brought him huge popularity in his lifetime and his paintings have gone on to inspire film-makers, designers and artists in Europe and America.

This beautifully illustrated book makes an important contribution to the revival of national and international interest in him and will complement a forthcoming touring exhibition.

Establishing the context of Martin's youth in rural Northumberland, his career in London and subsequent national and international fame, Morden captures the apocalyptic mood in England from the 1790s to the 1840s and examines Martin's central position as a painter of the "sublime".

The distinctive character of his work is explored through key paintings in terms of his techniques, devices and subject matter and their relationship to the culture and of popular entertainment of the time.

Influencing 19th century railway and public architecture, Martin's reputation spread to Europe and America, going on to determine the course of early 20th century cinema and anticipate inter-active mass media in the 21st century. This book establishes John Martin as an important figure in cultural history, shaping the way we view and respond to our modern world.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 156 pages, Over 60 coloured Illustrations as well as additional b/w ones
  • Publisher: McNidder & Grace
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Art & design styles: Romanticism
  • ISBN: 9781904794998



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Review by

Cultural historian, lecturer and writer in art history Babara Morden provides an account of the life and work of the monumental artist John Martin, following form his youth along with his brothers in Northumberland, his move to London and his progress towards fame. Morden consider various aspects of Martin's work and approach by considering in detail specific paintings. Also considered is Martin's legacy in terms of his influences.The book is illustrated throughout with John Martin's works and occasionally the work of other relevant artists. There are about eighty illustrations, almost all in colour including the mezzotints.Most of the major paintings are reproduced full page in size, although given the size of the originals these are still very small by comparison, it would have been helpful to have included a few larger details of sections of some of the works. The quality of reproduction is variable, in some cases the large dark areas are completely devoid of detail, not what I recall to be the case having seen some of the originals.The book includes a Glossary; Chronological History, Bibliographical and Cultural Events of the Time; and suggestions for Selected Reading. But there is irritatingly no index to either text or illustrations.The text does make interesting reading, and certainly enables the reader to consider Martin's work in the context of his time. In fact the text tends to talk around Martin's work far more than about it. For example, regarding "The Last Judgement" brief mention is made of the content, but no real detail - I recall some years ago the Tate produced a detail account of the work, describing very precisely who was depicted (my copy of which alas I seem to have lost), it would have been good to have this information here, along with the Biblical references (chapter and verse) which the paintings depict.It is a disappointing, too, especially in view of the shortage of books and more so with colour reproductions of Martin's work that more thought did not go into this aspect of this book; even the full page illustrations leave generous page margins - maybe there was a case here for using bleed images - and the lack of any details of the paintings is a little frustrating. The result is that the book fails to convey the visual impact these paintings have in the flesh.

Also by Barbara C. Morden