Walter Greaves was the son of a London boat-builder and trained as a shipwright. In 1863 Greaves met Whistler, who taught Walter and his brother, Henry, to paint. Greaves and Whistler remained close friends for over twenty years until Whistler, whose popularity was rising, surrounded himself with a new circle of friends. Greaves then found it impossible to sell his work. In 1911 Greaves's work was exhibited at the Goupil Galleries, but it was not long before Whistler's biographers accused Greaves of plagiarism. This condemned him to obscurity for the rest of his life.