Retirement from the ministry offered Thomas Campbell the opportunity to pursue a second and successful career as an artist. Born in England, Campbell immigrated to the United States at the age of nineteen and was ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1866. He served first as a missionary to Native Americans and subsequently held pastorates at churches in New York and Illinois. From the time of his arrival in this country, he actively maintained a sketchbook, recording his impressions of the American landscape.

In the hopes of improving his wife’s failing health, the couple moved to east Tennessee around 1892. Following her death that year, Campbell retired from the ministry and devoted himself to art. A brief teaching stint at Maryville College (1893–1894) was followed by a two-year sojourn in Europe. In 1902, Campbell returned to the Maryville campus where he founded the art department, teaching there until his death. His work can be found in the collections of the Filson Historical Society and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Campbell's work in Tennessee consisted primarily of landscapes, as well as fine painting on china. In this atypically large canvas, the artist depicts a factory complex in Blount County, Tennessee. In the foreground, a flour or grist mill sits on the banks of the Little River, while the background reveals a large manufacturing concern, smokestacks jutting into a hazy mountain atmosphere.