The painting on display at the Tate Museum in London is a personal favourite. I fell in love instantly when I discovered it. I immediately needed to know more about the artist behind the masterpiece.
John Martin, a Romantic painter, is known for his depictions of Hell and Heaven, as well as for his paintings of Biblical scenes of apocalypse and chaos. I was always a fan of religious art because the various perceptions of the concept of the Divine are fascinating, in my opinion, but the beauty of this painting is incomparable. The artist’s vision of destruction and his depiction of the pointlessness of humankind to counter the will of God are spellbinding.
The painting is also a social commentary about the impact of industrialization. His trip to the “Black Country”, an area of the west of Birmingham that gained its name to the smoke from the thousands of ironwork factories and forges found there, inspired him to paint this piece. The destruction of the rural locality set to be replaced by heavy machinery was a new reality for most of the western cities in the 19th century. The painting represents the destruction of Babylon, a rapidly growing civilization that can be compared to the rapidly growing London that the painter lived in.
Martin’s beautiful portrayal of apocalypse and cataclysms is breath-taking, to say the least. The artist’s fascination for judgment and damnation is what sets his paintings apart from other Romantic artists. Although his true worth was never recognized in his time, his visions were great influences in many aspects of the arts. His works inspired filmmakers like Ray Harryhausen and DW Griffith, among others.
By Meriem Terzi