Sydney Laurence was the first Western painter to make Alaska the principal subject of his art. Laurence grew up in Brooklyn, New York and studied at the Art Students’s League, where he absorbed the techniques of tonalism as practiced by J. F. Murphy, George Inness, and others. Laurence learned to render water, rocks, and peaks in private lessons with Edward Moran. After his marriage, Laurence traveled to England and throughout Europe, eventually becoming a war correspondent during the Boer War in South Africa. Afterwards, for reasons that remain something of a mystery, he left his wife and family and lit out for the gold fields of Alaska, settling eventually in Anchorage, where he remarried and found his calling painting scenes from the rugged and beautiful Alaskan wilderness with its soaring peaks—Mt. McKinley in particular—and dancing Auroras above solitary cabins in the pines.