In his New York studio, Church painted this spectacular view of a blazing sunset over wilderness near Mount Katahdin in Maine, which he had sketched during a visit nearly two years earlier. Although Church often extolled the grandeur of pristine American landscape in his work, this painting appears to have additional overtones. Created on the eve of the Civil War, the painting's subject can be interpreted as symbolically evoking the coming conflagration. Church's considerable technical skills and clever showmanship contributed to his fame as the premier artist of his generation. Rather than debut this painting in an annual exhibition with works by other artists as was the custom, Church instead exhibited it by itself at a prestigious art gallery. Coaxed by advance publicity and highly favorable press reviews, several hundred spectators flocked to admire it during its seven-week run.