Painter of oils and watercolors and etcher of London scenes, Walter Greaves was born in 1846. While training as a shipwright, Greaves began drawing and painting the river. During the early 1860s, Greaves met Whistler and became his studio assistant and pupil. Their friendship lasted well into the 1880s. Greaves exhibited mainly at the Goupil Gallery, which held exhibitions of his work in 1911 and 1922. He also exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery and in the provinces.
Much of Greaves life was spent in poverty and in 1919 a benefit was organized by William Nicholson and William Rothenstein to restore his reputation which had been damaged by rumors that Whistler had actually executed some of his work. In 1922 Greaves was admitted as a Poor Brother at the Charterhouse, where he remained until his death in 1930.