Walter Greaves (1846-1930)
Walter Greaves (1846-1930)

Portrait of James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), seated at an easel

Walter Greaves (1846-1930)
Portrait of James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), seated at an easel
signed and dated 'W. Greaves/1876' (lower right) and further signed and inscribed 'Portrait of/James McNeill Whistler/By W. Greaves' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
48 x 31 ¾ in. (122 x 80.6 cm.)
with Roland Browse & Delbanco, London.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 13 November 1985, lot 7.
London, Michael Parkin Fine Art Ltd., Round and About Whistler, 5 October - 11 November 1994.

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Clare Keiller
Clare Keiller

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Lot Essay

Greaves and his brother Harry met Whistler in 1863 when he moved to 7 Lindsey Row, only two doors away from the Greaves’s house. Nearby neighbours included Rossetti and Algernon Swinburne. The brothers soon became enthralled with the cosmopolitan American, working as his studio assistants, buying his art supplies, and preparing his canvasses and pigments. Walter and Henry Greaves had begun painting at an early age, choosing local Chelsea views as their subject matter and often working and signing their pictures together. Walter focussed on the composition and Henry’s talent was in the details.

Walter Greaves later recalled that he ‘lost my head over Whistler when I first met him and saw his painting’, and as Gordon Fleming notes ‘Whistler’s domination over the brothers was total. They even tried to look like him. They wore hats, ties and gloves like his, and they grew little moustaches’ (G. Fleming, James Abbott McNeil Whistler: A Life, New York, 1991, p. 100). Whistler also influenced Greaves’s technique away from a tight, detailed style to a much looser, bolder method.

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