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JOHN MARTIN, Esq.
Historical Painter to his Serene Highness the Prince Leopold, and her late Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte, of Saxe Cobourg,
PORTRAIT TAKEN FROM LIFE EXPRESSLY FOR THIS WORK.
THE history of Literature, Arts and Sciences is replete with the misfortunes of men of genius; and we can discover but few men, who have done honour to the human species, whose shining abilities have been fostered by the benevolence of power, or rewarded by the still more legitimate patronage of an enlightened public. The age of Pericles, the ce lebrated reign of Augustus, and the times of Cosmo and Lorenzo de Medici are, perhaps, the only periods in the annals of the world, during which the page of history has been brightened by the rays of protected genius. Persecutions have almost invariably followed and obscured the dawn of genius, and its possession has more frequently been a curse than a blessing to its possessor. New lights, shed on the dark hemisphere of ignorance, have generally been immediately darkened and destroyed by jealous power, or persecuting superstition. We may lament over the sad fate that has awaited the sons of genius, but the circumstances are more calculated to awake sympathy than create surprise. In proportion as the public mind encreases in knowledge, so will encrease the patronage of the arts among the powerful and the rich; who are ever ambitious to signalize themselves by the acquisition of qualities, that render them conspicuous in the eyes of the world. A demand for the productions of genius will Eur. Mag. Vol. 83.
always provide an adequate reward; and the best market, that can be sought for, exists directly or indi rectly in the mental cultivation of all classes, which must be inevitably followed by an admiration of the highest powers of intellect and by refined taste. To this enviable state England, at the present time, seems making a rapid approximation. The encreasing knowledge of the lower orders necessarily commands a more refined and extensive intelligence among the higher classes of society; and it is nothing but strict justice to assert that in no period of the history of this country were the arts so generally patronised, or so successfully cultivated. This observation particularly applies to sculpture and painting, and the subject of the present memoir is a living instance of -the fact. On him the patronage of the powerful and the rich is beaming, while the public in general encourage him with their eagerness to view his exhibitions, and the justice of this united patronage, due to transcendant talents, will be confirmed and eulogized by posterity.
Mr. Martin was born at Haydonbridge, an obscure town in Northumberland, on the 19th of July, 1789; although born in a place that presents no opportunities for the developement of talent, this son of genius rose from the obscurity in which he was nurtured, by the native powers of his mind, assisted by undeviat
ing perseverance, and an exercise of the moral virtues. At a very early age, his mind was directed to the art of painting from seeing some efforts of drawing executed by his brother, who had practised that art, in a minor degree, at some other place: these efforts he instantly surpassed, and the generous and sanguine praise of his brother fanned the latent flame of his nascent genius, which has since risen into meridian splendour. When he was about the age of fourteen his father removed to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and this circumstance, perhaps, decided his destiny. Even the signs suspended before the inns were objects of admiration to his untutored mind, and afforded him rude materials on which he exercised his incipient powers. Although at this time particularly partial to boyish active sports, he would frequently forsake them in order to compare the signs with each other, and continually traversed the town from one end to the other for that purpose. His friends were at first decidedly averse to his follow ing the arts in any shape as a profession: but at last were prevailed upon to comply with his decided inclination, and with laudable care selected herald painting, as branch of the art which would at all events be lucrative; with this provident design he was apprenticed to a coach-painter in Newcastle; but, in consequence of some disagreement, he did not serve the full time of his apprenticeship. At this critical period of his life, Mr. Martin found a friend in Mr. Muss, (father of the celebrated enamel painter of that name now in London) by whom he was kindly noticed and faithfully in
structed and to whom he owes obligations, which he unceasingly acknowledges with all the gratitude and respect, that can be felt by a man capable of the most honourable and lasting attachments. About the age of seventeen Mr. Martin ventured up to town, buoyed up by all those vast hopes, that animate an aspiring mind conscious of extraordinary powers. He could no longer bear to be a burthen on his parents; and with the slenderest pecuniary means, at this early age, he entered on the arena of life, confidently relying on his talents, assisted by propriety of
conduct and invincible perseverence. He left Newcastle with a strong recommendation from his earliest friend Mr. Muss, to his son, who was already established in London as an enamel painter, and with a portrait of his master and a view, as specimens of his abilities. Under Mr. Muss, junr. he soon distinguished himself, but secretly sighed for eminence in the highest walk of the pictorial art, historical painting. He was scarcely twenty years of age before he ventured on matrimony, and although this proceeding increased his difficulties, it animated his exertions, and after spending the day upon a tea cup or a vase, he employed his evenings in some romantic designs, generally made in Sepia, in the working of which he has excelled every artist of his time. At this period he made many beautiful drawings which were very much admired, particularly by the late Eart of Warwick, and the late Princess Charlotte; however, these testimonies rather delighted than satisfied his aspiring ambition, and his ardent mind panted for the premium at that time annually given at the British gallery, for the best historical painting. His first essays, like all attempts at original style, met with few admirers; the defects of a young artists are but too palpable to the most common observer; and it requires penetration and judgment to discover latent excellences, and the bursting irregular energies of rising genius.
The first picture that attracted any considerable praise, SADAK IN
SEARCH OF THE WATERS OF OBLI
VION, was purchased by Wm. Mannig, Esq, the Bank Director.
The second was, ADAM AND EVE IN PARADISE, purchased by Spong, Esq. of Kent.
The third was, JOSHUA, first exhibited at the Royal Academy, and the year after at the British gallery, where it obtained the premium.
The fourth was the DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON, exhibited at the British gallery. The purchase of this picture, by H. P. Hope, Esq. for four hundred guineas, was made in the most liberal manner, and with the politest attention.
The fifth picture, BELSHAZZAR'S FEAST, exhibited at the British Gal
lery, raised the subject of this memoir to the highest pitch of celebrity; and we are sorry to be obliged to say, that the purchase of this excellent production was attended by circumstances of the most disgraceful nature, which prevented it from becoming the property of the Duke of Buckingham. It was exhibited afterwards to the public, and more than 50,000 persons paid for admission to see it, although it had been previously exhibited at the British Gallery.
The sixth and last picture, painted by this eminent artist, was the DESTRUCTION OF HERCULANEUM. This is, at present, Mr. Martin's chef d'aurre, and is sufficient to hand his name down to the latest posterity: it was painted for his Grace the Duke of Buckingham, for the sum of 800 gnineas, and was exhibited together with Belshazzar's Feast, &c. at Mr. Bullock's Museum. While this picture was in progress, the artist was three times offered the sum of one thousand guineas.
We cannot conclude this memoir without mentioning the names of some admirers and encouragers of
the arts, who have honoured Mr. Martin with their liberal patronage. The late Earl of Warwick, her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte, Lord Ennismore, the Duke of Buckingham, Thomas Wilson, Esq. Wm. Manning, Esq. and John Belisario, Esq. who has proved himself not only a liberal patron but a kind friend.
Mr. Martin is engraving his JosнUA and his BELSHAZZAR, from the original design in the possession of Thomas Wilson, Esq. and is further employed on a work of perhaps much greater sublimity and difficulty of execution, than he has hitherto painted-the subject is SARDANAPALUS, OR THE FALL OF NINEVEH.
We must here conclude this memoir, with wishing the subject of it a long, healthy, and prosperous life; in order that he may still further add to our elegant enjoyments, and the honour of his country. Let those who would profit by his example and arrive at his envied distinction, imitate his industry, his temperance, his activity, and his perseverance.
TO THE MOON.
In thy fair visage, Moon of Night!
When 'neath the weight of sorrow pining,
When joy's mild shout around me rings,
O! then, the calm which wraps the air,
My heart from thy soft beam can borrow
And offers up to God its pray'r,
In smiles and tears, in joy and sorrow.