Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900)

Our Banner in the Sky, 1861

Oil paint over lithograph on paper, laid down on cardboard, 7 1/2 x 11 3/8 in. (19.0 x 28.9 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.27

Frederic Edwin Church is noted for creating landscape paintings that blend realistic detail with dramatic nationalism. Although it is a small-scale composition, Our Banner in the Sky boldly depicts the American flag as a transient arrangement of sky, clouds, and stars seemingly held aloft by the barren tree on the left. Church created an oil sketch that served as the basis for this work at the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861–65), following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, in April 1861. The flag, lowered to signal the Union’s surrender to rebel forces, soon became a contested national symbol. That June, Church was commissioned to produce a chromolithograph after his oil sketch, and the Terra Foundation’s version is one of several lithographs the artist himself presumably painted by hand. The work strongly resonated with Northern wartime viewers, who enthusiastically embraced this rallying image.

Learn more about this painting on the Terra Foundation website.