Inspired by William Cullen Bryant's poem "Thanatopsis," this landscape was first exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1850. The catalogue noted lines from Bryant's poem. After the exhibition, the picture was acquired by the American Art-Union and distributed in the same year to one of its subscribers. Durand's son noted that after this his father got the picture back, repainted parts of it, and sold it to Mr. B.F. Gardner. Durand briefly resumed painting large philosophical landscapes after the death of Thomas Cole, using his works as models. The presence of a funeral, of a farmer's daily work, and of the ruins of man in ancient nature reflects the poem's emphasis on the permanence of the earth and the creation and reversion of man from and to its soils.
American Art-Union, New York, 1850; by lottery to Frank Moore, New York, 1850; B. F. Gardner, Baltimore, by 1862; on consignment to S. P. Avery; sale, Leeds' Art Gallery, New York, 28 Dec. 1866, no. 47a.; J. Pierpont Morgan, New York, by 1894–1911