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by Walter Greaves (1846-1930)
Artistically precocious and eager to expand his artistic training beyond that he had received as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, James McNeill Whistler left America for France in 1855, never to return. He studied first at the École Impèriale et Spéciale de Dessin in Paris and then in the atelier of academic painter Charles Gabriel Gleyre. But always a rebel, personally and professionally, Whistler soon became his own most important instructor, absorbing myriad influences from the richly textured world of contemporary French art.

Whistler first moved to London in 1859. When in 1863 he settled at 7 Lindsey Row on the Thames in Chelsea, his neighbors included the Greaves family, whose two sons, Walter and Henry, had an interest in art. Skilled as watermen and boat builders, they not only escorted Whistler on his painting forays on the Thames, but they soon became his pupils. The brothers adopted his painting style as well as his manner of dress. The numerous portraits that Walter did of Whistler are a reflection of his affection for the charismatic artist.
Oil on canvas, 1870
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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