- John Martin
- The Feeding of the Five Thousand
- signed l.r.: J.M. 1835
- pen and black ink with grey wash over traces of pencil
John Martin was described by his son, Leopold, as a 'man of piety and strong religious impressions' commenting that 'his character as known to the world and in private life was of a deeply spiritual, enthusiastic worshipper of the Bible... His knowledge of the Holy Scriptures was extraordinary. He knew them nearly by heart, and yet he was seldom without a copy at hand; certainly his easel was never without a copy of it' (see T. Balston, John Martin His Life and Works, 1947, p.156, p. 161).
The subject of the present watercolour, together with three other works entitled Flight into Egypt, Christ's Entry into Jerusalem and The Crucifixion, were engraved by John Martin in 1835. They were produced as a set of four small mezzotints and were most likely commissioned by the 'Society for the Diffusion of Christian Knowledge'.
Characteristic of Martin's mature work he creates a panoramic landscape here with the massed ranks of the five thousand recipients of the miraculous meal fanning out from the centre which is dominated by the upright, dazzling figure of Christ in the act of blessing the food.
This drawing was bought from Mrs Charlotte Frank who bequeathed two of the greatest works by Martin, The Plains of Heaven and The Last Judgement, to the Tate in memory of her husband Robert Frank.