Friday, 19 October 2012
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The Last Man
Alfred Martin after John Martin
R. Ackermann, 96 Strand, London, 1836.
Image 110 x 179 mm, Plate 171 x 252 mm
John Martin's The Last Man is based on a short poem by Thomas Campbell first published in 1823. The poem, which bears the same name, narrates a vision of the end of the world as witnessed by a sole survivor who watches the sun set for the final time. Envisioning the apocalypse was a growing literary trend, and Martin created a succession of images which responded to this. He exhibited An Ideal Design of the Last Man with the Society of British Painters in 1826; the watercolour of which this mezzotint is based on in 1833; and a further watercolour of the same subject at the Royal Academy in 1839. This print is exceedingly rare.
Alfred Martin (1835 - 1844; fl.) was an English printmaker; and son of the painter John Martin. He produced many engravings after his father's designs, including those for Thomas Hawkins's The Wars of Jehovah, Heaven, Earth and Hell, published in 1844.
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.
Campbell, Visionary Printmaker, p. 161.
Condition: Very strong impression. Light surface dirt to sheet; otherwise excellent.