Louis N. Kenton (1865–1947) was Eakins's brother-in-law, having married Elizabeth Macdowell (1858–1953), sister of Eakins's wife Susan, in 1889. Elizabeth studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, exhibited professionally, and traveled widely. Her marriage to Kenton was stormy and apparently brief, and very little is known of it, or of Kenton. The title associated with this portrait, "The Thinker," was at one time based upon an inscription on the reverse that apparently was placed there by Susan Eakins. Beginning in 1900, the portrait was widely exhibited and much admired. An oil study for the portrait is in the Farnsworth Library and Art Museum in Rockland, Maine.