Born into a wealthy Philadelphia family active in the China Trade, Edmund Darch Lewis received private art lessons from the German immigrant painter Paul Weber. He became one of the most popular Philadelphia artists, acclaimed for his scenes of Pennsylvania rivers, as well as along the New Jersey shore.
"Lake Willoughby' represents Lewis's expanded interests in the 1860s and 1870s, as he began to explore New England. Located near the Canadian border, Lake Willoughby is the largest body of water in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. The majestic sweep of the lake, spanning more than sixteen hundred acres, is echoed by the painting's width. The stormy sky and towering scale of mounts Pisgah and Hor in the background versus the small sportsmen in the left foreground create maximum dramatic effect, as does the contrast between sunlight and shadow, mist and clarity. During the second half of the nineteenth century, such grandiose American landscapes were immensely popular with audiences at home and abroad (Queen Victoria herself thrilled to the New York painter Albert Bierstadt's vision of the Rocky Mountains). They satisfied viewers' curiosity about unfamiliar regions and celebrated the spectacle of the United States as a land of limitless potential for growth.