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

Thames nocturne: Battersea Reach from Cheyne Walk

Details
Walter Greaves (1846-1930)
Thames nocturne: Battersea Reach from Cheyne Walk
oil on canvas
24 x 18 in. (61 x 45.8 cm.)

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Lot Essay

Son of a Chelsea boat-builder, Walter Greaves' path to an artistic career was unconventional to say the least. James Abbott McNeill Whistler moved to London in 1859, establishing himself in Chelsea, an area popular with artists. Many of his works took the river as their subject and Greaves and his brothers acted as ferrymen for Whistler on his painting expeditions up and down the Thames, just as their father before them had done for J.M.W. Turner. By 1863 Greaves was his pupil and unpaid assistant and the huge influence of Whistler can be seen throughout Greaves' career in his choice of subject matter and technique.

The present lot is painted at Cheyne Walk, looking across the Thames towards Battersea Reach. Cheyne Walk was in the heart of Chelsea and before the embankment was built fronted on to the Thames, providing a perfect spot for artists. A community sprang up in and around it, and boasted many famous residents during the 19th Century including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, J.M.W. Turner, and Whistler who is lived at no less than four different houses along the street during this same period.

Greaves' river views, like Whistler's, were characterised by a muted palette of blues, greys and greens, often picturing the Thames by night, or late evening, and punctuated with small flecks of bright colour to indicate a lamp or source of light. Whistler coined the term "nocturne" for these compositions and in the present lot, Greaves' choice of subject, colour and shape of canvas are reminiscent of Whistler's Nocturne in Blue and Gold, circa 1872-75.

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