- Sargent was commissioned by the Art Association of Indianapolis, the forerunner of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, to create this portrait of the Indiana author and poet James Whitcomb Riley.
- Riley is posed in a contemplative manner, holding a book to suggest his profession as a writer. Sargent chose a limited dark palette as well as a plain background to convey the no-nonsense, down-to-earth personality of his subject.
- Born in Florence, Italy, to American parents, Sargent traveled throughout Europe in his youth. Determined to become an artist, he trained at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was acclaimed as one of the era’s most fashionable portraitists.
Artist commission; purchased by the Art Association of Indianapolis, Indiana, for the John Herron Art Museum, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1903.