This is John Martin’s take on the chaos of the primeval world. Best known for his gloomy apocalyptic paintings of Biblical destruction, Martin turns his attention to the predatory world of pre-history in which real animals are transformed into demonic monsters engaged in the high drama of the struggle to survive. This highly-charged image is at odds with Hawkins’s picture-book of fossils; once again, science is romanticised, turning it into the subject of the imagination. Martin’s expressionistic design is disturbing, a Goya-like vision of the Victorians’ deepest fear of the amorality of nature. Etching. 5¾ x 7½ inches. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Photograph and text by Simon Cooke. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.

Related Material


Hawkins, Thomas. The Book of the Great Sea-Dragons. London: Pickering, 1840.

Created 6 July 2021