James Carroll Beckwith was celebrated for his portraiture, figural works, and landscape; among his most well known works are portraits of composer William Walton, and writer Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Beckwith also had a personal interest in decorative design and murals. At the age of 16, Beckwith entered the Chicago Academy of Design, and later continued his training at the National Academy of Design in New York, and the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. With his friend and fellow student John Singer Sargent, Beckwith assisted his tutor Emile-Auguste Carolus-Duran with commissions decorating the ceiling of the Palas du Luxembourg in 1877. He later received a number of his own mural commissions in Paris and Chicago. He devoted his career to championing the international recognition of American artists, particularly through the New York Art Guild.