Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 36.djvu/290

This page needs to be proofread.
Martin
Martin
284


Street, Berners Street, and in the following year 30 Allsop Terrace, New Road, whence he removed to Lindsey House, Chelsea, in 1848 or 1849. He was living here when, in 1852, he sent to the Royal Academy his last contributions, which included ‘The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.’ On 12 Nov. 1853, while engaged upon his last large pictures, ‘The Last Judgment,’ ‘The Great Day of his Wrath,’ and ‘The Plains of Heaven,’ he was seized with paralysis, which deprived him of speech and of power in the right arm. He was taken to the Isle of Man for the benefit of his health; but convinced that abstinence would cure him, he refused sufficient nourishment, and died at Douglas 17 Feb. 1854. After his death the three large pictures of the Apocalypse already mentioned were exhibited in London and the chief cities in England, attracting great crowds and many subscribers for the engravings from them which were subsequently published. His eldest son, Charles (1810–1906), was a well-known portrait-painter. A younger son, Leopold Charles [q. v.], is noticed separately.

From a portrait by Wageman in the ‘Magazine of the Fine Arts’ for 1834, Martin would appear to have been a good-looking man with an animated countenance. His relations with the several artistic societies with which he was connected prove him to have been somewhat impatient, and more ready to take offence than to forget it. There was possibly some touch of insanity in the family, as all his three brothers were, to say the least, eccentric. That he was capable of a generous recognition of the merits of a brother artist is shown by his purchase of Etty's picture of ‘The Combat’ in 1825. He is said to have given 200l. or 300l. for it.

There are three of Martin's water-colour drawings and one landscape in oil in the South Kensington Museum. At the time of his death his principal pictures were in the collections of Lord De Tabley, the Dukes of Buckingham and Sutherland, Messrs. Hope and Scarisbrick, Earl Grey, and Prince Albert. Several of his most typical works, including ‘Joshua,’ are now in the possession of the Leyland family at Nantclwyd, North Wales (see Notes and Queries, 6th ser. xii. 452).

Martin was once ranked among the greatest geniuses of all time. His pictures were said to reveal a ‘greatness and a grandeur’ which were ‘never even dreamed of by men until they first flashed with electric splendour upon the unexpecting public’ (see Magazine of the Fine Arts, iii. 97, &c., published December 1833). Wilkie, in a letter to Sir George Beaumont, describes ‘Belshazzar's Feast’ as a ‘phenomenon;’ Bulwer (afterwards Lord) Lytton declared he was ‘more original, more self-dependent, than Raphael or Michel Angelo.’ On the other hand, Charles Lamb made Martin's work the text of his essay on ‘The Barrenness of the Imaginative Faculty in the Productions of Modern Art’ (cf. Lamb, Letters, ed. Ainger, ii. 166). Before his death Martin's reputation had greatly decreased; his work was called ‘meretricious,’ ‘mechanical,’ and ‘tricky,’ and his obvious deficiencies in drawing and colour became the principal theme of his critics. But Martin, if he was once praised too highly, was no charlatan. Although, as Wilkie said in the letter referred to above, he was ‘weak in all those points in which he can be compared with other artists,’ he had a strong and fertile invention, and conceived spectacles which, if not sublime, were imposing and original. The power of his imagination is perhaps now best to be appreciated in his illustrations to Milton (drawn by him on the plates), where the smallness of the scale and the absence of colour enable us to appreciate the grandeur of his conceptions without being too strongly reminded of his defects as an artist.

[Gent. Mag. 1854, i. 433–6; Georgian Era, iv. 156; Redgrave's Dict.; Redgraves' Century; Annals of the Fine Arts, 1833, 1834; Art Journal, 1854 p. 118, &c., 1855 p. 195; Catalogues of Royal Academy, &c.]

C. M.

MARTIN, JOHN (1791–1855), bibliographer, born on 16 Sept. 1791, was son of John Martin of 112 Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, London. After assisting Hatchard, the bookseller of Piccadilly, he commenced business on his own account in Holles Street, Cavendish Square, but soon afterwards entered into partnership with Mr. Rodwell in Bond Street. He retired from business in 1826, but continued his bibliographical pursuits. He edited Gray's ‘Bard,’ 8vo, 1837, and Gray's ‘Elegy,’ 8vo, 1839 and 1854, with illustrations from drawings by the Hon. Mrs. John Talbot, and the ‘Seven Ages of Shakspeare,’ 4to, 1840; 8vo, 1848, illustrated with wood engravings. The production of these and numerous other illustrated books was the means of introducing him to the leading artists of the day. For many years, until 1845, he acted as secretary to the Artists' Benevolent Fund. In 1836 he was appointed librarian to the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey, and fixed his residence at Froxfield, in the parish of Eversholt, near Woburn. During his sojourn there he visited nearly every church in Bedfordshire, and wrote a description of each in a series of papers which appeared in the ‘Bedford Times’ and ‘Northampton Mer-