Heade became a good friend of the acclaimed landscape painter Frederic Church (1826–1900), but he worked on the periphery of the Hudson River School. He specialized not in dramatic wilderness subjects, as many of the school did, but preferred more prosaic marshlands and coastal settings. Even when he painted storms, as here, he portrayed not the actual tempest, but its tense preamble of blackening sky and eerily illumined terrain. This painting was based on a sketch of an approaching storm that Heade witnessed on Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay about 1858. The image became the basis for a more elaborate and synthetic version of the subject painted in 1868 (Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas).
William H. Chapman, New York, and East Orange, New Jersey, until died 1891; his wife, Helen Chapman, Oakland, Florida, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1891–1905; his son, Niles Chapman, Indianapolis, 1905–44; descended in the family of Helen W. Fleischer, 1944–69; Thomas Fleischer, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1969–73; his son, David N. Fleischer, Bethlehem 1973–75; the Erving Wolf Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Erving Wolf, New York, 1975 (Mr. and Mrs. Wolf retained one-third interest until 1977)