Maeterlinck, whose early Symbolist writings are marked by a profound melancholy, pessimism, and mysticism, was much admired by Steichen, who at a young age read his plays and essays assiduously. Steichen later recalled, "I was terribly romantic and passionate in my early painting days. . . . I remember how Maeterlinck’s essay ‘Silence’ stirred me, how I went out to paint pictures of night and silence in that mood." The admiration was mutual. Maeterlinck penned an appreciation in 1903 for issue 2 of Camera Work, devoted to Steichen; his text was reprinted in 1906 as the introduction of the "Special Steichen Supplement" in which this portrait appeared as the first plate. Steichen appropriately captured the spirit of Maeterlinck’s writing in his portrait of the author immersed in darkness and barely illuminated by an ethereal light.