Aurora painting pays tribute to Civil War's end

Eos, Earth and Space Science News



This year marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, a conflict that Abraham Lincoln called a “mighty scourge.” It was one of the most poignant periods in U.S. history, laying bare political, economic, social, and moral divergence between Northern and Southern states. The cause of the divergence that led to war was slavery [e.g., McPherson, 1988, chap. 3]—an institution that, by the 19th century, had been effectively abolished in the North but remained firmly entrenched in the South.

War erupted in 1861 after a confederacy of Southern states declared secession from the Union of the United States. When the war finally ended in 1865, the Union had prevailed, and afterward, slavery was abolished throughout the United States. This outcome was obtained at the cost of 750,000 American lives and substantial destruction, especially in the South [e.g., Gugliotta, 2012].

In 1865, the same year the war ended, the American landscape artist Frederic Edwin Church unveiledAurora Borealis (pictured above), a dramatic and mysterious painting that can be interpreted in terms of 19th century romanticism, scientific philosophy, and Arctic missions of exploration. Aurora Borealiscan also be viewed as a restrained tribute to the end of the Civil War—a moving example of how science and current events served as the muses of late romantic artists [e.g., Carr, 1994, p. 277; Avery, 2011; Harvey, 2012].

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Aurora painting pays tribute to Civil War's end
Series title Eos, Earth and Space Science News
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Geologic Hazards Science Center
Description HTML document
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N