Painted in the midst of the Civil War, Sanford Gifford's A Coming Storm was first owned by celebrated Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, brother of Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth. When the great American writer Herman Melville saw the painting at an exhibition in New York City just after Lincoln's death in April 1865, he was struck by the work's symbolism and wrote a poem about its tragic prescience that includes:
A demon-cloud like the mountain one
Burst on a spirit as mild
As this urned lake, the home of shades.
Gifford, who served in the Union Army himself, was keenly interested in the dramatic effects of weather and light, shown here along the banks of Lake George in upstate New York.