John Martin

England 1789-1854
The Deluge 2001.0001

Mezzotint refers to a tonal rather than linear engraving process that was developed in the 17th century. The plate is first worked over with a serrated "rocker," raising a burr over the surface to hold the ink and print as a soft dark tone. The composition is then created in lighter tones by scraping out and burnishing areas of the roughened plate so that they hold less ink or none at all. Details may be added by further engraving or etching. Martin is best known as a landscape painter who specialized in large, melodramatic, epic paintings depicting scenes from Milton's Paradise Lost or scenes from the Bible such as this one described in Genesis 7 and 8. Martin's paintings are usually crowded with hundreds of figures and convey a sense of great distance. In this composition Noah's ark can be seen in the far distance to the right. His work profoundly influenced the American landscapist Thomas Cole. Martin, however, was also a superb mezzotint engraver. Martin frequently made large plate mezzotints after his own paintings, slightly altering the original composition. This rare mezzotint of The Deluge was based upon Martin's large oil on canvas which is now lost. Both the painting and the mezzotint were exhibited together at the Royal Academy, London, in 1829. Martin considered the painting to be one of the most important of his career and it became his favorite work. The mezzotint was an enormous popular and financial success and was originally accompanied by an eight-page pamphlet describing the scenes and events in the composition.




Orientation Gallery
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225 West Second Street
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