The auroras--usually visible only in the north---were widely interpreted as signs of God's displeasure with the Confederacy and of the moral stakes attached to a Union victory. Viewers understood that Church's painting of the Aurora Borealis (also known as the northern lights) alluded to this divine omen during a time of uncertainty.
Frederic Edwin Church (May 4, 1826 – April 7, 1900) was an American landscape painter born in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, best known for painting large landscapes, often depicting mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets. Church's paintings put an emphasis on realistic detail, dramatic light, and panoramic views. He debuted some of his major works in single-painting exhibitions to a paying and often enthralled audience in New York City. In his prime, he was one of the most famous painters in the United States.