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Creator:
John Martin, 1789–1854, British
Title:

Travelers on a Road above a River

Date:
1821
Medium:
Brown wash and graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Dimensions:
Sheet: 7 3/4 x 10 5/8 inches (19.7 x 27 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Inscribed in pen and brown ink, lower left: "J Martin 1821"

Signed and dated in pen and brown ink, lower left: "J Martin 1821"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1975.4.1339
Classification:
Drawings & Watercolors
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
cliff | genre subject | landscape | mountains | river | road | tourism | town | travelers | trees | waterfalls
Access:
View by request in the Study Room [Request]
Note: The Study Room is open by appointment. Please visit the Study Room page on our website for more details.
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:11036
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John Martin is best known today for his vast canvases of epic historical and biblical subjects, but his earliest landscapes were small sepia drawings of ideal scenery. Martin’s first exposure to landscape art was looking at engravings after Claude and Salvator Rosa in the collection of his teacher, the Italian artist Bonifacio Musso. This imaginary view of travelers on a road shows the influence of these engravings on the young Martin, conforming to the conventions of seventeenth-century Roman landscapes with framing trees to the left and a distant prospect of Italianate countryside.

Gallery label for Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-06-09 - 2008-08-17)
This suggests that before the success of Belshazar's Feast, Martin was best known for small landscape compositions in brown wash such as Travelers on a Road above a River. These wash drawings were primarily ideal landscape compositions, distant descendants of the monochrome landscapes of Alexander Cozens (cat. nos. 2-3). Musso had introduced the young Martin to landscape while they were both in Newcastle, although Musso had only engravings after artists like Claude and Salavator Rosa to teach from. Travelers on a Road above a River shows their lasting influence, conforming to the conventions of seventeenth-century Roman landscapes with its framing trees to the left and distant prospect of Italianate countryside. This delicate drawing, with its soothing evocation of an imaginary world, is quite different from the overwrought and luridly colored histories he aspired to paint and would eventually make his name with. In fact, Travelers on a Road above a River respresents the last gasp of this kind of work from Martin's brush. At the very same time he was making it he was also busy finishing Belshazars Feast, which would allow him to abandon these popular sepia drawing once and for all.

Matthew Hargraves

Hargraves, Matthew, and Scott Wilcox. Great British Watercolors: from the Paul Mellon collection. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2008, p. 152, no. 65

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-06-09 - 2008-08-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (The State Hermitage Museum, 2007-10-23 - 2008-01-13) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007-07-11 - 2007-09-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Yale Center for British Art, Great British watercolors : from the Paul Mellon Collection, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007, pp. 152-53, no. 65, ND1928 .Y35 2007 (LC)+ Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]


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