Thomson sketched this scene from a canoe, almost at water level, with the universe wrapped around him. He portrays the sunset in shocking hues and agitated brushwork, with a blazing reflection in the lake that doubles its allure, magic, and power. He paints not just crimson clouds but an acid yellow-and-green sky behind them.
The blood-soaked sunsets painted by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch had startled the world in the mid-1880s after Krakatoa, in 1883, blew tons of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. Nature gave Thomson similar assistance after the volcanic eruption of California’s Lassen Peak in May 1915 caused spectacular sunsets in the northern hemisphere.