Endowed with a far-ranging intellectual curiosity, Talcott Williams began his career in journalism in the early 1870s. In 1881 he was named an editor of the Philadelphia Press. In 1912 he became the first director of the Columbia School of Journalism. At Columbia, Williams set high standards for his profession, constantly reiterating his conviction that good journalism required not only writing ability but also a wide breadth of knowledge.
Philadelphia-born, French-trained painter Thomas Eakins, who had been introduced two years earlier to the venerable American poet Walt Whitman by Williams, often asked his friends to pose. Many of these were bust portraits, and Eakins is noted for the variety he was able to achieve in this limited format. By depicting Williams with an expression of intense concentration on his face and his mouth open as though in conversation, Eakins succeeded in suggesting the energy, quick wit, and lively intelligence of his subject, who was known among friends as �Talk-a-lot� Williams.