Paradise City

The Representation of an Urban Heaven in the Art of John Martin

in Religion and the Arts
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Abstract

In a century defined by the rise of cities, the early nineteenth-century painter John Martin broke artistic precedents and represented heavenly Paradise as a space premised on urban living. Though he did not entirely reject the more traditional conception of Paradise as a garden, he merged the rural vision of Paradise with urban structures and spaces. Martin’s widespread popularity, combined with the contentious discourses regarding the nature of the city, ensured that his representations engaged a set of public debates regarding the nature of urban life in profound ways. Martin’s paintings and prints suggested that God not only tolerates cities, but that God builds them and resides in them. In essence, his paintings and prints revealed an urban heaven that helped make a political and religious case for urban life in general.

Paradise City

The Representation of an Urban Heaven in the Art of John Martin

in Religion and the Arts

Sections

Figures

  • View in gallery
    Figure 1

    John Martin, The Celestial City and the Rivers of Bliss, 1841. Oil on canvas, 48 ½″ × 76 ½″. Private Collection.

  • View in gallery
    Figure 2

    John Martin, Belshazzar’s Feast, 1821. Oil on canvas, 31 ½″ × 47 ½″. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven, CT.

  • View in gallery
    Figure 3

    John Martin, Satan Viewing the Ascent into Heaven, 1824. Mezzotint, 8″ × 10″. Victoria and Albert Museum.

  • View in gallery
    Figure 4

    John Martin, Heaven—The Rivers of Bliss, 1824. Mezzotint, 8″ × 10″. Victoria and Albert Museum.

  • View in gallery
    Figure 5

    John Martin, The Courts of God, 1824. Mezzotint, 8″ × 10″. Victoria and Albert Museum.

  • View in gallery
    Figure 6

    John Martin, The Plains of Heaven, 1851–1853. Oil on canvas, 76 ½″ × 120″. Tate Britain, London.

  • View in gallery
    Figure 7

    John Martin, The City of God and the Waters of Life, 1850–1851. Oil on canvas, 18″ × 26″. Private Collection.

  • View in gallery
    Figure 8

    John Martin, The Last Judgment, 1851–1853. Oil on canvas, 76 ½″ × 128″. Tate Britain, London.

  • View in gallery
    Figure 9

    John Martin, detail of The Last Judgment, 1851–1853. Oil on canvas. Tate Britain, London.

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