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John Martin
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Isle of Man
Martin was largely a self-taught artist, who achieved through his vivid imagination and bold, theatrical style an epitome of the romantic sublime in landscape painting that proved highly influential. Born in East Landends near Haydon Bridge on the Tyne River, he moved with his family to Newcastle in 1803 and there received some slight training from the Italian painter Boniface Musso. In 1806 Martin went to London and during the next five or six years supported himself as a painter on porcelain and glass. His earliest exhibits at the Royal Academy and British Institution in 1812-14, however, marked the emergence of an original talent, and he quickly gained fame for his vast, densely detailed scenes of tumult and disaster. So audacious were some of his visions that he received the nickname "Mad Martin." A lifelong foe of the academy, he was one of its most bitter critics in parliamentary hearings on the academy in 1836. In the 1820s, Martin turned his attention to engravings and mezzotints, partly as a way of reaching a larger audience, and his illustrations of Paradise Lost and the Bible proved particularly popular. He also worked as an inventor and pamphleteer and proposed a number of ideas for public works. In France, Martin's name became synonymous with the sublime, and his work formed a direct link to the American landscape tradition of Thomas Cole, Washington Allston, and Frederic Church.