View on the South Downs

John Martin British

Not on view

After achieving early success with Biblical and apocalyptic subjects, Martin turned briefly to English landscape in the eighteen-forties. This example allows us to examine his unique handling of watercolor and approach to nature, while also demonstrating an awareness of his contemporaries. The way bright patches of yellow are used to break up dark green foliage in the center distance, recalls Samuel Palmer's visionary treatment of oak woods near Shoreham a decade earlier. A pair of tiny figures lying on the grass in the foreground, demonstrate that Martin did not simply base this view on sketches, but instead constructed an imaginary, elevated viewpoint. Subtle distortions of scale and the inclusion of tiny details (visible only through magnification) lend the work a visionary quality–these details include a group of women dressed in white seated on the grass in the center distance, a windmill beyond the trees at right, and tiny trees lining the horizon.

View on the South Downs, John Martin (British, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland 1789–1854 Douglas, Isle of Man), Watercolor with reductive techniques

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