A Century of British Painters

By Samuel Redgrave; Richard Redgrave | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIX
IDEAL LANDSCAPE--MARTIN, DANBY AND
POOLE

IN our preceding chapters we have given some account of the contemporaries and successors of Turner, who were purely landscape painters, relying on natural scenery as influenced by storm and sunshine, by noonday or twilight, their figures being merely accessories to give life and interest to the scene; but Turner himself, in addition to his art as a landscape painter, depicting the scenery of the present age and of classic antiquity, of plain and mountain, of ocean and river, painted works wherein the scenery was subordinate to the subject, such as the pictures of 'Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus', the 'Jason', etc.

This chapter will treat of painters whose works are wholly of the latter class; who rarely painted realistic landscape, but occupied themselves largely with the poetical and ideal. Of such was John Martin, who studied nature not to realize her pastoral or rural aspects but to embody for us subjects derived from history and poetry, in which the landscape is made to sympathize with the story, and is equally necessary with the figures to the effect on the spectator.

John Martin was born in the North of England, at a house called Eastland Ends, Haydon Bridge, near Hexham, on 19 July 1789; as he reached the age when it was necessary to settle his future career in life, his taste and inclination were so decidedly towards art that his father adopted a somewhat practical application of it, and determined to make the lad a herald-painter. The family having removed to Newcastle, he was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to one Wilson, a coach-builder of that town, and, with little inclination to the branch of art he was to pursue, continued to labour as an apprentice for twelve months. At that time, by the terms of his apprenticeship, he was to begin to receive a weekly payment for his work; but his master, asserting that three months of the period had been passed as on trial, demurred to the payment, wishing to postpone it yet three months longer. Martin, who disliked his work, ran away from the workshop; his father approved the step, and supplied him with colours and materials to practise art. He had just begun to feel happy in his emancipation from trade drudgery when he was brought before the alderman of the town as a runaway apprentice; but his answer to the

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