|Published||[London, Charles Tilt, Fleet Street. c. 1838]|
|Dimensions||Image 188 x 283 mm, Sheet 215 x 292 mm|
John Martin's Illustrations of the Bible was the most ambitious project of Martin's career. He set out to produce a folio of forty illustrations depicting both the Old and New Testaments. The work was first issued in 1831, in parts containing two mezzotints as well as supporting Biblical passages. After laudatory reviews for the first seven instalments, parts VIII to X were published simultaneously, and somewhat paradoxically, and went almost unnoticed by critics. As a result of this, the venture was a commercial failure, and Martin sold the plates to the publisher Charles Tilt in 1838, who republished the series. Tilt's successor, David Bogue, continued selling these works until 1853.
John Martin's print relates to the Biblical story (Exodus 14) of Moses releasing the waters of the Red Sea, after they had miraculously parted to allow the fleeing Israelites to cross, thereby drowning the pursuing Egyptian army.
John Martin (1789-1854) was an English painter, illustrator and mezzotint engraver. He achieved huge popular acclaim with his historical landscape paintings which featured melodramatic scenes of apocalyptic events taken from the Bible and other mythological sources. Influenced by the work of J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) as well as Theodore Gericault (1791–1824), Eugene Delacroix (1798–1863) and Paul Delaroche (1797–1856), his paintings are characterised by dramatic lighting and vast architectural settings. Most of his pictures were reproduced in the form of engravings, and book engravings, from which he derived his fortune. Despite his popularity, Martin's work was spurned by the critics, notably John Ruskin, and he was not elected to the Royal Academy. His fame declined rapidly after his death, although three of his best known works of religious art toured Britain and America in the 1870s: The Great Day of his Wrath (1853, Tate, London), The Last Judgment (1853, Tate) and The Plains of Heaven (1851-3, Tate). A great contributor to English landscape painting, Martin was a key influence on Thomas Cole (1801-48), one of the founding members of the Hudson River School.
CW 103; Campbell, Visionary Printmaker, p. 142-3.
Condition: Filled worm hole to sea area of image, trimmed within plate mark, with loss of publication line.