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

The Deluge

Former Title(s):

The deluge. [1837, Royal Academy of Arts, London, exhibition catalogue]

Date:
1834
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
66 1/4 x 101 3/4 inches (168.3 x 258.4 cm) and 73 1/2 × 109 inches (186.7 × 276.9 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Signed and dated, lower right: "J. Martin. | 1834"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1978.43.11
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
boats | comet | death | destruction | family | flood | geology | heaven | lightning | meteorology | moon | night | Noah's arks | people | religious and mythological subject | rocks (landforms) | science | sea | storm | sun | tidal waves | violence | waves (natural events) | wife
Access:
Not on view
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:5017
Export:
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IIIF Manifest:
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A larger version of a painting shown in 1826 at the British Institution, this work of 1834 won a gold medal at the Paris Salon of 1835 and was called his “favourite picture” by the artist. Using the Bible and Byron’s verse drama Heaven and Earth (1821) as sources, John Martin re-creates the biblical flood story amid extraordinary astronomical circumstances, depicting the sun, moon, and a comet in conjunction. In an effort to reconstruct geological conditions, the artist also noted that “relative to the scale of proportion, viz. the figures and trees, the highest mountain in the Picture will be found to be 15,000 Ft., the next in height 10,000 Ft., and the middle ground perpendicular rock 4,000 feet.” On one of the rock ledges in the background, Noah’s ark sits barely visible, illumined by the last rays of the sun, while in the center of the composition, a lightning bolt strikes a blasphemer whose wife attempts to cover his mouth with her hand to silence his sacrilegious curses.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016



According to the Book of Genesis, mankind showed such wickedness in the generations after Adam that God repented of the whole of Creation and sent down a huge flood, destroying almost every living thing on earth. Martin attempts to capture the divine violence at its most destructive, when "all the fountains of the great deep [were] broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." The only people to be spared were the righteous Noah and his family, whom God instructed to build an ark. Martin makes this symbol of hope and redemption barely visible, resting on one of the highest rocky ledges near the ominous conjunction of sun, moon, and blood-red comet.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 1999
As a painter fascinated with cataclysms, in which humanity appears as the plaything of terrible, "sublime" natural forces, Martin was almost inevitably drawn to the biblical story of the Deluge. According to the Book of Genesis, mankind showed such wickedness in the generations after Adam that God repented of the whole of Creation and sent down a huge flood, destroying almost every living thing on earth. The only people spared were the old and righteous Noah and his family, whom God warned of the impending disaster and instructed to build an ark, taking on board with them a male and female of every animal species. The flood rose throughout forty days and forty nights of rain, until even the tops of the highest mountains were covered, and lasted in all about a year. When the land was finally dry again, Noah made a sacrifice to God, who told him and his family to go forth, procreate and "replenish the earth" (Genesis 9:1). He undertook never again to visit such destruction upon the world, and set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of his new covenant with Creation.
In The Deluge Martin attempts to capture the divine violence at the moment of its greatest destructiveness, when "all the fountains of the great deep [were] broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened" (Genesis 7:11). What he lacked in technical skill he made up for with his genius for conception and spectacle, and his master stroke in this work is to show the great mountains crashing down upon humanity in a tidal wave of stone; this is a universal storm, erupting not merely through air and water, but through earth as well. Perhaps Martin associated the flood of Genesis, coming at the beginning of the Bible, with the apocalyptic events described in the Book of Revelation at its end. Some of the figures hint at damned souls from a Last Judgment. Certainly it is the horror of the scene, and the futility of mankind's struggle against fate, that have caught the artist's imagination. Noah's ark, the symbol of hope and redemption, is barely visible, resting on one of the highest rocky ledges, near the ominous conjunction of sun, moon, and blood-red comet.
This appears to have been Martin's second Deluge picture. He exhibited an earlier treatment of the subject at the British Institution in 1826; although the actual work is lost, we know its appearance from a reproductive print published in 1828. He first showed the present version at the Paris Salon in 1835, where it was much admired by the French and won him a gold medal. In 1837 he exhibited the work again, this time at the Royal Academy in London; in the exhibition catalogue the title was accompanied by quotations from Genesis and from Byron's dark poetic drama on the Deluge, Heaven and Earth. In 1839 Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, paid a visit to Martin's studio, saw The Deluge (it was as yet unsold) and suggested that he should paint further works on the same theme to create a narrative cycle. Martin took up the idea and conceived a kind of triptych, with The Deluge as centerpiece and slightly smaller "wings" showing scenes before and after the cataclysm. He painted his new subjects and exhibited them at the Royal Academy in 1840. In the first, The Eve of the Deluge (Royal Collection), Noah and his family appear grouped around the ancient Methuselah, who recognizes the coming together of the sun, moon, and comet as the fulfillment of prophecies made by his father Enoch. The final work in the sequence, The Assuaging of the Waters (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), shows the mountains reappearing as the flood subsides, with the dove sent out by Noah to discover whether the earth is again habitable flying back with the hopeful sign of an olive branch in its beak. These were bought from Martin respectively by Prince Albert and the Duchess of Sutherland, the Queen's Mistress of the Robes, and The Deluge was bought from him in about 1845 by his most important patron, Charles Scarisbrick, a wealthy landowner, developer, and collector from Lancashire. The three paintings remained in different collections and, curiously, appear never to have been exhibited together in the artist's lifetime.

Malcolm Warner

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 150, no. 63, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

Travelling. J.M.W. Turner in Search of the Sublime and Picturesque (LWL - Museum für Kunst und Kultur, 2019-11-08 - 2020-01-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Yale University Art Gallery 2015 - 2016 (Yale University Art Gallery, 2015-07-27 - 2015-01-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Critique of Reason : Romantic Art, 1760–1860 (Yale University Art Gallery, 2015-03-06 - 2015-07-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

British Vision - Observation and Imagination in British Art (Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, 2007-10-06 - 2008-01-13) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Constable to Delacroix : British Art and the French Romantics 1820-1840 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003-09-29 - 2004-01-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Constable to Delacroix : British Art and the French Romantics 1820-1840 (Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2003-06-01 - 2003-08-27) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Constable to Delacroix : British Art and the French Romantics 1820-1840 (Tate Britain, 2003-02-06 - 2003-05-11) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of South Australia, 1998-09-16 - 1998-11-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Queensland Art Gallery, 1998-07-15 - 1998-09-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998-05-01 - 1998-07-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

John Martin: Visions of the Biblical Flood (Yale Center for British Art, 1997-09-17 - 1997-11-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

John Martin: Visions of the Biblical Flood (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1997-05-10 - 1997-08-03) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

"Salon de 1835", L'Artiste, IX, Paris, p. 64, 97, J10 +Ar8823 (LSF) [ORBIS]

Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977-1986, Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1986, pp. 9, 16, no. 38, N590.2 A7 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Thomas Balston, John Martin, 1799-1854, his life and works., G. Duckworth, London, 1947, pp. 18, 56, 88-, NJ18 M39 B35 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Emma Barker, Art & visual culture, 1600-1850 : academy to avant-garde, , Tate Publishing, London, 2012, p. 213, pl. 5.32, N6756 .A78 2012 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julian Bell, Wonderland, TLS, the Times Literary Supplement, Issue no. 5463, December 14, 2007, pp. 11-12, Film S748 (SML) Also Available Online in TLS Archive [ORBIS]

British Institution: Exhibition of Ancient Masters, Athenaeum, July 1854, p. 819, Available online in British Periodicals II Also available: A88 At421 + (SML) Available online in British Periodicals II [ORBIS]

Thomas Buser, Religious art in the nineteenth century in Europe and America, v. 28a-28b, Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, N.Y., 2002, no. 12, N7875 B88X 2002 (DIVINTY) [ORBIS]

Norman Cohn, Noah's flood, the Genesis story in Western thought , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1996, no. 34, BS658 C64X 1996 (Bass) [ORBIS]

Malcolm Cormack, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 156-157, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Holland Cotter, A Master of Biblical Floods and Final Days, New York Times, 14 September 1997, p. AR33, Yale Internet Resource [ORBIS]

Etienne Delecluz, Les Beaux-arts dans les deux mondes en 1855. Architecture, sculpture, peinture, gravure., Charpentier, Paris, p.89, J447 Ex75X 856D (LSF) [ORBIS]

Deluge (mezzotint with etch, 1828), Magazine Antiques, vol. 120, November 1981, p. 1159?, NK1125 A3 (HAAS) [ORBIS]

S. M. Ellis, Current Literature, Fortnightly Review, vol. 116, July 1924, pp. 138-41, A88 F778 (SML) Available online in British Periodicals database. [ORBIS]

William Feaver, The Art of John Martin, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1975, NJ18 M39 F43 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Fine Art Gossip, Athenaeum, no. 1088, September 1848, p. 885, Available online: British Periodicals II Also available: .A88 At421 + (SML) [ORBIS]

Evan R. Firestone, John Linnell: The Eve of the Deluge, Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, vol. 62, April 1975, pp. 131-9, J418 C65D (SML) Also available on line in JSTOR [ORBIS]

Michael Freeman, Victorians and the prehistoric, tracks to a lost world , Yale University Press, New Haven, 2004, p. 171, no. 90, QE 705 G7 F74 2004 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Joseph Grego, Art on the Queen's Accession, Magazine of Art, January 1887, p. 368, N1 M34 + (YCBA) Available online in the British Periodicals Database [YCBA]

Gustave Dore, London Review of Politics, Society, Literature, Art and Science, vol. 11, September 1865, p. 668, Film S2228 (SML) Available online in British Periodicals database. [ORBIS]

Robert Hoozee, British vision : observation and imagination in British art, 1750-1950, , Mercatorfonds Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Brussels , Ghent, 2007, pp. 313, 318, 319-23, 362, no. 256, color detail, p. 318fig. 256, N6767 B78 2007 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Martin - The Dante-Milton of Painters, Hood's Magazine, July 1846, p. 91, A88 H76 (LSF) Available online in British Periodicals Database. [ORBIS]

John Martin, 1789-1854, loan exhibition [of] oil paintings, watercolours, prints [held] 30th October-21st November 1975 [at] Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox. , Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, Ltd., London, 1975, pp. 46-7., no. 53, NJ18 M39 H39 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Martin, Editions Treville Co., Ltd. , Tokyo, 2009, p. 33, cat. 15, NJ18 M39 A12 2009 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John Martin, visions of the biblical flood. , Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 1997, pp. 2-4, NJ18 M39 S74 1997 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christopher Johnstone, John Martin, Academy Editions, London, 1974, p. 17-18, 72, 75, NJ18 M39 +J65 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Lars Kokkonen, Apocalypse Now (Nachtliche Ergusse), John Martins Profanitat im England des 19. Jahrhunderts , Belvedere : Zeitschrift fur Bildende Kunst, 9 Jahr, Heft 1, 2003, pp. 33,34-35, Abb. 2, Not Available at Yale

Les origines du monde : l'invention de la nature au XIXe siècle, Gallimard, Paris : FR, p. 121, fig. 84, N8239.S65 075 2020+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 150, no. 61, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Giovanni Mariotti, John Martin: Visions of the Biblical Flood, FMR, October/November 1997, pp. 20-32, N1 F16 OVERSIZE (HAAS) [ORBIS]

Lynn Robert Matteson, Apocalyptic themes in British romantic landscape painting, 1984, Film B43 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Lynn Robert Matteson, John Martin's Deluge: A Study in Romantic Catastrophe, Pantheon, vol. XXXIX/III, July-August-September 1981, pp. 220-228, N3 P3 OVERSIZE (HAAS) [ORBIS]

John McDonald, A Feast of Mellon, Sydney Morning Herald, May 9, 1998, p. 14, Film An Sy25 (SML) Also Available Online (Factiva database) [ORBIS]

Barbara C. Morden, John Martin : Apocalypse Now!, , Northumbria University Press, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2010, pp. 52, 57-58, NJ18 M39 +M67 2010 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Morton D. Paley's The Apocalyptic Sublime, Apollo, v. 125, no. 300, February 1987, pp. 150-51, N1 A54 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Martin Myrone, John Martin, apocalypse , Tate Publishing, London, 2011, pp. 54, 106, 163, 201, NJ18.M39 A12 2011 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Patrick Noon, Crossing the Channel : British and French painting in the age of romanticism, Tate Publishing, London, p. 122-3, no. 56, ND467.5.R6 N66 2003 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Morton D. Paley, The Apocalyptic Sublime, Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1986, p. 139, no. 66, ND1432 G73 P34 1986 [ORBIS]

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 3, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA) [YCBA]

Mary L. Pendered, John Martin, Painter : His Life and Times, , Hurst & Blackett, London, 1923, pp. 131-139, p. 132, NJ18 M39 P4 1923 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Graham Reynolds, Turner : with a new introduction by David Blayney Brown, Thames & Hudson, London, fig. 164, NJ18.T85 R49 2020 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Duncan Robinson, Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977 - 1986, , Burlington Magazine, vol. 128, October 1986, pp. 9, 16, no. 38, N1 B87 128:3 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Anny Sadrin, John Martin - The Deluge, Interfaces, v. 7, 1995, pp. 11-26, cover, V 0597 (YCBA) [YCBA]

The Exhibition of the Royal Academy, Monthly Magazine, v. 3:18, June 1840, p. 664, Yale Internet Resource Available online in British Periodicals Database [ORBIS]

The John Martin Exhibition, a Once-Famous Biblical Painter , Illustrated London News, vol. 223, no 5974, October 17, 1953, p. 601, Available online: Illus.London News Hist. Archive [ORBIS]

Turner : horror and delight, Sandstein Verlag, Dresden, pp. 232-233, no. 101, NJ18.T85 A12 2019b Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Richard Verdi, Poussin's Deluge: The Aftermath, Burlington Magazine, v. 123,no.940, July 1981, p. 398, N1 B87 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Gustav Friedrich Waagen, Works of Art and Artists in England. By G.F. Waagen, Director of the Royal Gallery at Berlin, British and Foreign Review, July 1839, pp. 31, 39 -41, Available Online: British Periodicals II Also available: WC 18931 (LSF - Mudd)

J. Dustin Wees, Darkness Visible : The Prints of John Martin, , Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass., 1986, p. 33, no. 23, NJ18 M39 W44 (YCBA) [YCBA]


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