Ruin Lust at Tate Britain

'The Destruction of Pompei and Herculaneum' 1822, restored 2011 John Martin (1789-1854) Purchased 1869. ©Tate

‘The Destruction of Pompei and Herculaneum’ 1822, restored 2011 John Martin (1789-1854) Purchased 1869. ©Tate

What is it that we so enjoy in the gloomy comfort of a good ruin? The number of picturesque follies scattered about the English landscape might make one think this is a peculiarly British taste, but according to the Tate’s new show, its origins lie in Germany, in the 18th century. The Germans after all set up the whole idea of the beautiful and the sublime, and Ruinelust propelled many an early tourist up and down the Rhine; according to the Tate, that liking for being chilled and thrilled is with us still. I’m not sure this is news to anyone who has ever watched a horror movie, and in fact the show begins with John Martin’s vast hot lava-red ‘Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum’ from 1822, a vision of global destruction that makes movies such as ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ look as if they’re not even trying.

Read Erato’s full review here