Henry Graves was a print dealer. He was the son and grandson of printsellers. He married Mary Squirrell (d. 1871), and they had two sons, Boydell and Algernon (1845-1922); the latter joined the family firm.
He founded Henry Graves & Co., printsellers and publisher to the Queen. He was also a founder of the Art Journal and Illustrated London News. At the age of 16 he became assistant to Samuel Woodburn, then with Hurst & Robinson, the firm that had succeeded Alderman Boydell's business in Cheapside. In 1825 the premises were at 6 Pall Mall, and Graves, now Manager, joined up with Francis Graham Moon and Mr Boys to buy up Hurst & Robinson. In 1844 he changed the firm's name to Henry Graves & Co.
Graves was three times Vice-President of the Printsellers' Association and was Master of the Cutlers' Company.
The Graves lived near Whistler when he was at 454 Fulham Road and had dealings with him from about 1877 to 1891 as their extensive correspondence (Houghton Library, Harvard University) documents. In 1880, they published mezzotints of Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle y137 and Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder y203. They also advanced loans on the security of several paintings such as Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother y101 and Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle y137,. Whistler sent the latter to the Salon in 1884, and to other exhibitions in subsequent years in order to sell it. He did not repay the loan fully until 1891, when the painting was sold to the Corporation of the City of Glasgow. The paintings were thus saved from the wreck of Whistler's bankruptcy in 1879.
An identification of Study of a Head y427 as a portrait of Graves, a print seller, was made by Parke-Bernet in 1942, but this may be incorrect, as the sitter appears too young to be Henry Graves and does not resemble contemporary images of his son Algernon. At Graves's sale on 20 April 1893 at Christie, London, various works on paper by Whistler were sold.
Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 1997; Kelly's Post Office Directory, London, 1872; Mayfair etc Directory for 1886-87, London; Annual Register, London, 1892, pp. 188-189. The Correspondence of James McNeill Whistler, 1855-1903, edited by Margaret F. MacDonald, Patricia de Montfort and Nigel Thorp; including The Correspondence of Anna McNeill Whistler, 1855-1880, edited by Georgia Toutziari. Online edition, University of Glasgow, 2004.