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John Martin and the Prometheans

Max Adams looks at the works of the artist John Martin, his radical schemes to improve Victorian London, and his broad circle of friends at the forefront of political and cultural change in the first half of the 19th century.

John Martin (1789-1854),  painter of the apocalyptic sublime and creator of radical schemes to transform England in the Industrial Revolution,  came from an impoverished rural background in the Tyne valley of Northumberland. His father Fenwick, a feckless but attractive man of great strength and ‘dauntless resolution’ was by turns a drover, pedlar, tanner, publican and swordsman. He was also a romantic. In about 1771 he eloped with a local girl called Isabella Thompson and carried her off to Gretna Green on horseback for a marriage at the smithy’s anvil.


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