John Martin, The Assuaging of the Waters, 1840
Oil on canvas, 56 1/2 x 86 1/4 in. (143.5 x 219.1 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Whitney Warren Jr. Bequest Fund in memory of Mrs. Adolph B. Spreckels, 1989.73
John Martin painted this dramatic vista as the concluding scene in a trilogy of images depicting moments from the biblical flood. Noah's Ark appears as a small white dot on the horizon, emphasizing both the vastness of nature and the considerable endurance of humanity. As the flood waters recede, the earth's surface emerges as a freshly formed assortment of rocks and tidepools. These natural aspects are further accentuated by Martin's unconventional application of paint, which exploits the material properties of the medium, likewise both liquid and mineral.
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