John Martin (1789–1854, England)

Dramatic landscapes 2

John Martin was an English Romantic painter and one of the most popular artists of his day. He was celebrated for his typically vast and melodramatic paintings of religious subjects and fantastic compositions, populated with minute figures placed in imposing landscapes. His dramatic and subjective style of composition was in stark contrast to the emerging schools of naturalism and realism, which led his work to fall out of critical favour soon after his death, however a revival in interest has occured towards the end of the 20th century, and now his major works are popular pieces of many museum’s collections.

Hieronymus Bosch, Hell. This is the whole vertical panel (one of four of Paradise and Hell), of one of Bosch’s exceptional luminous scenes. Fire may have had a special intensity for Bosch due to a catastrophic fire in his town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch that set thousands of homes ablaze, which Bosch likely witnessed at the young age of thirteen. One can compare the fire-lit darkness in this panel to the burning city in the right panel of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. Here he achieved this using a wet-on-wet technique to paint the light over a layer of black, illuminating the tortured souls below.