In February and March of 1849, the "Illustrated London News" carried a series of announcements about the works of the painter John Martin being exhibited at the British Institution, the third of which included an account of his early life. On the 17th of March the paper received a long letter from the artist, reproduced here in full, from his house on the river at Chelsea, in which he demands a right of reply. Their article is, he claims, so unfortunate a tissue of errors from beginning to end, that it can only have the effect of misleading your readers; and I must, therefore, request your insertion of the following particulars, which, however brief, may at least be relied on, and thus supersede the unauthorised sketches of my life which have hitherto appeared. Martin's brief memoir makes fascinating reading. Beginning with his youth in Newcastle where he was apprenticed to a coach-builder, it recounts his initial struggles in London and the eventual recognition accorded to his vast, apocalyptic paintings and stunning engravings, ending with the civic works he devoted himself to in later years.
The reader is left in awe of Martin's determination and drive, satisfied, as he hoped we would be, that he spoke truthfully when he claimed I have never been an idle man. With an introduction by a leading expert on the art of the period, this engaging book provides many new insights into the work of this extraordinary artist and the times in which he lived.