At the request of reader Merinda B., who "really loves" John Martin's "Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion" (left), today's installment of "Feel Art Again" focuses on the nineteenth-century English painter and engraver.
1. John Martin (1789-1854) was the youngest of 13 children, though only 5 of the Martin children survived to adulthood. The most infamous of Martin's siblings is his older brother Jonathan, a "non-conformist" who deliberately set fire to York Minster on February 2, 1829. An onlooker, unaware of the arsonist's identity, remarked that the scene was reminiscent of John Martin's art. The fire caused extensive damage and the elder Martin was brought to trial, with John Martin paying for his brother's defense. In the end, Jonathan "Mad Martin" was found guilty, though he escaped the noose due to insanity.
2. A print of one of Martin's more popular works, "Belshazzar's Feast," hung on a wall in the BrontÃ« vicarage in Haworth. Growing up, Charlotte and Branwell BrontÃ« often copied Martin's work.
3. Martin's reputation in the "serious" art world was somewhat damaged when enormous versions of "Belshazzar's Feast" were mounted at dioramas. Martin attempted to have the display of a 2,000-square-foot version at the British Diorama shut down with a court order, but was unsuccessful.
4. Greatly interested in the improvement of London, Martin published pamphlets and plans that dealt with the city's water supply, sewerage system, docks, and railways. His 1834 plans for London's sewerage system anticipated later proposals to create intercepting sewers with walkways along the banks of the River Thames.
5. Martin felt it was important to distribute prints of his paintings as a "means which would enable the public to see my productions, and give me a chance of being remunerated for my labours." He believed that even the prints were works of art and involved himself in every step of the print creation process.
Larger versions of "Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion" (left) and "The Bard" (right) are available. Fans should check out the John Martin Web site and MySpace page; this video interview with Martin; these portraits of Martin; and the Martin collections at the Tate and Wikimedia. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at email@example.com with artist suggestions or details of current exhibitions.