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Walter Greaves

  1846 – 1930
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[Portrait of a Lady wearing a white cape]

[Portrait of a Lady wearing a white cape]   c.1877

Original etching with drypoint, retouched by the artist in pencil and black wash.

Unique working proof, extensively retouched by the artist in pencil and black wash.


[Lady in Black, standing]

[Lady in Black, standing]   1877

Original drypoint.

Very rare working proof impression.


Tinnie sold

Tinnie   c.1877

Original etching and drypoint.

Very rare early trial proof impression.
‘Tinnie’ was the nickname for Alice Fay Greaves, Walter’s younger sister.



No other artist was as heavily influenced by Whistler and his style than Walter Greaves. The close association between the Greaves brothers and their neighbour, Whistler is well documented and it is clear that the attachment which Walter Greaves developed for everything associated with Whistler bordered on obsession.

Walter Greaves fell under the spell of J.A.McN. Whistler during the 1860’s when they met by chance in Chelsea, where both lived at the time. The son of a boatbuilder, Walter and his brother introduced Whistler to the sights of the area, regularly rowing the great artist up and down the nearby stretches of the river. In return Whistler taught them the secrets of painting and printmaking and the three became great friends. Walter’s attachment to ‘The Master’ became so great that he even imitated his style of dress and his pictures are perhaps the most Whistlerian of all of Whistler’s students.

The importance of Walter Greaves as an artist has been much overlooked until recent years. After an auspicious start, Walter Greaves suffered a serious blow – his master, Whistler, became envious of his student’s work, fearing that it might attract attention, and he rejected his disciple in his characteristically abrasive manner. Walter Greaves never recovered from this rejection and it was not until an exhibition of his work in 1911 that he, once again, enjoyed a brief period of exceptional praise.

However, even this short revival of his fortune was ruined by Joseph and Elizabeth Pennell who directed a string of vindictive public attacks against Greaves in order to protect the reputation of Whistler, whom they still revered. In the words of Sir John Rothenstein “No English painter of comparable stature has suffered more vicious denigration and, except in regard to a single painting, more consistent misfortune and neglect than Greaves”.

Walter Greaves's work as a printmaker is known primarily through his Chelsea views which were reprinted in portfolios on a number of occasions. However, his most sensitive and truly Whistlerian work is in his rare portrait etchings and drypoints. Only a very few proofs of these works were ever printed, apparently for his own personal interest alone. [more]