Home > The Catalogue > Biography

Return to previous page

James Reeves Traer, ca 1834- d.1867

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: ca 1834


James Reeves Traer was a partner in F. Seymour Haden's medical practice.


Traer, a member of Haden's practice, was also a member of the Jury on which Haden served. He was particularly interested in optics and may have inspired the young Whistler to experiment in his paintings with effects he had witnessed in photography. For example, in At the Piano y024 the gently curving edges and two parallel centres of visual interest suggest that Whistler sought to imitate the principle of the stereoscope.

Traer was always liked by Whistler. He sat as one of the family group in Whistler's etching The Music Room 039. In 1861 Whistler stayed with Edwin Edwards and his family at Sunbury on the Upper Thames. There he met up with Traer and other friends including the artist W. M. Ridley. Both men appear in Whistler's drypoint The Camp 080.

Traer died in Paris on 23 April 1867. On 26 April Whistler accused Haden of disrespect towards his late partner and knocked him through a plate-glass window in Paris. They were summoned before a juge de paix and Whistler was fined. Whistler and his brother William arranged Traer's funeral in Paris and Whistler and Haden never spoke to each other again.


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980.