John Martin: Visions of the Biblical Flood

Wednesday, September 17, 1997
Sunday, November 30, 1997

Between 1834 and 1840, the visionary artist John Martin (1789–1854) painted three large-scale epic works relating the Genesis story of the flood, the terrible punishment brought down by a wrathful God upon sinning humanity. The cycle comprises The Deluge, now part of the Center’s permanent collection, The Even of the Deluge (Royal Collection, Kensington Palace), and The Assuaging Waters (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco). This exhibition brought all three together for the first time since Martin sold them to different collectors in the 1840s.

John Martin made his name as a painter of just such scenes of cataclysm, drawn largely from the Bible, in which mankind is overwhelmed by the power of God and the immensity of Nature. What he lacked in technical skills he made up for with a genius for conception, forging his own highly original means of suggesting awe-inspiring infinities of space and universal destruction.

This exhibition was organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and shown at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor as part of the “Britain Meets the Bay” celebrations.


John Martin, The Deluge (detail), 1834, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection