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John Martin: Painting the Apocalypse

John Martin, The Great Day of His Wrath, 1851-3 (detail) © Tate, London, 2011.
Wednesday 22 June 2011 - Sunday 4 September 2011

John Martin was one of the most popular artists of the 19th Century. So why have most people never heard of him?

If ever there was an artist whose reputation deserves restoration, it’s John Martin (1789–1854). Described by The Times as ‘the painter with the power to stop even a bored teenager in his gallery-traipsing tracks’, Martin’s dramatic images have inspired everything over the years from sci-fi films to heavy metal album covers. Yet, compared to contemporaries like Constable and Turner, he was largely snubbed by the art establishment of his day – John Ruskin was a particularly vocal critic! Instead, Martin developed his audience from the grass roots – relying on an eye for enthralling subjects and tireless touring of his paintings to build his popularity.

This exhibition, the first major show of Martin’s work in over 30 years, will showcase some of his most dramatic oil paintings, including Belshazzar’s Feast and The Great Day of His Wrath. Appearing in Sheffield before it tours to Tate Britain later this year, John Martin, Painting the Apocalypse will also explore Martin’s enduring influence on cinema and popular culture.

Here's what some of our visitors have said to date:

View a slideshow of some of John Martin's greatest paintings being installed at the Millennium Gallery:

Read up on the show in advance or buy an apocalyptic souvenir from our online shop.

John Martin, Painting the Apocalypse is part of the Great British Art Debate, a partnership project between Museums Sheffield, Tate, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Visit www.greatbritishartdebate.org for more details.