John Martin first earned public acclaim with this epic painting of Joshua commanding the sun to stand still, and storms to rage upon the Amorite army. The battle was part of the conquest of Canaan, and is described in Joshua chapter 10: “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.”
A believer in natural religion, deism and pre-Darwinian evolution, John Martin’s apocalyptic images of divine wrath were less a reflection of a severe personality than an affinity for the sublime — for the grand, the epic, the hardcore. Described by Thomas Lawrence as “the most popular painter of his day,” his “awesome” style had a profound influence upon generations of artists and writers, including Thomas Cole, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Rider Haggard. In 20th century film, we recognize his influence in the space operas of George Lucas and the Biblical epics of Cecil B. DeMille. Charleston Heston’s Moses would feel quite at home on a canvas by John Martin.