Hayllar RBA, James (1829-1920)

Hayllar RBA, James (1829-1920)
Hayllar RBA, James (1829-1920)

James Hayllar was a British artist predominantly known for his charming domestic scenes with figures. He was also an accomplished portraitist and trained at the Royal Academy. Regarded as an amiable man, he played an active role in the development of the arts in his local community, particularly in Wallingford and Bournemouth. Four of his daughters, Edith, Jessica, Mary and Kate, all became artists of merit.

Various public collections hold examples of his work, including the V&A in London and the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool.


Royal Academy, British Institution, Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, Royal Hibernian Academy, British Institution, Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, Manchester City Art Gallery.

Public Collections

V&A, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Wallingford Town Hall, Nottingham City Museums & Galleries, Royal Cornwall Museum, Bolton Museum & Art Gallery, Shipley Art Gallery, Southampton City Art Gallery, The Box in Plymouth.



Born in Chichester, Sussex, to Thomas Hayllar, a merchant, and Mary Ann Hayllar (nee Child). Mary’s father was a distiller.


Lived in Edmonton with his family.


Enrolled at Cary’s Art Academy in Bloomsbury, London. Francis Stephen Cary also taught Millais and Rossetti.

Studied at the Royal Academy.


Debuted at the Royal Academy with ‘Son of R. Staples Browne, Esq’ where he continued to exhibit frequently.
Recorded as staying in Clapham.


Undertook a study trip to Italy where he met Frederic Leighton.


Married Ellen Phoebe Cavell (1826-1901) in London. The pair would have four sons and five daughters.


Lived in St Pancras, London, with his wife, four children and three staff.


The Standard. Exhibition review.

“Taking the order of the catalogue, the first drawings worthy of especial notice are Nos. 4 and 5, by Mr. James Hayllar, ‘A Roman Shepherd’ and ‘An Abruzzi Woman,’ which are broadly and well executed.”

The Daily Post. Exhibition review. Society of Fine Arts.

“It is pleasant to turn from polemical affectations to a bit of simple nature and character, such as James Hayllar's ‘Boulogne Marketwoman’ (No. 1). It is replete with quiet beauties. Notice the frosty but kindly face, its hues and texture so delicately yet strongly marked. Notice also the prim neatness of the kerchief, and indeed of the dress altogether; the contented, sitting attitude of the old body; the arrangement of her basket. The picture is full of the best spirit - its clearness and its pleasant preservation of interesting details show much observing and reproductive power.”


The Standard. Exhibition review.

“Mr. James Hayllar takes the palm in a bright picture of a lovely little girl in all the charm of hat and feathers, muslin jacket, and blue petticoat. She is about to take a daring leap from the lower stair in the hall on to the mat, but unwilling that the feat should be performed unseen, she exclaims, her bright eyes gleaming with childish pride, ‘No, den, all tum and see me dump.’ This picture is alike perfect in design and colour. The contrasts are admirable. The spirit of the whole is healthy and Englishlike. Only England could produce such a picture in the life, and the treatment is peculiarly English all through.”


The Dundee Courier and Argus, 1870.

“Art Union of Great Britain. We beg to call the attention of our readers to the announcement in another column of the next drawing of this Art Union, which is advertised to take place on the 25th of this month. The first prize has been selected from the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, where it is now being exhibited. It is a most beautiful painting by James Hayllar, Esq., entitled ‘The Last Load’, value 150 guineas. It represents one of those familiar scenes so highly appreciated by every lover of nature, both in town and country, and the artist has given it with such a faithful and masterly hand-clothed it, as it were, with such poetic imagination, that one can almost feel the calm serenity of the evening, with its golden setting sun, and sniff the scent of new mown hay."

It was in the Royal Academy last year, and the art critic of the Times, in his notice of the exhibition, says:- ‘Another picture conveying a delightful sentiment of a pleasant country time and work is Mr Hayllar's Last Load (94), a hay cart in a wood-girt field, with a glow of sunset upon its fragrant load, and a golden and purple sky gleaming through the trees.’ The Committee have had the painting photographed by Mr Hayward, of Finchley, and a copy, album size, will be given as a souvenir to each purchaser of twenty tickets.”


Lived in St Pancras, London, with his wife, seven children and five staff.


Lived in Wallingford, Berkshire.


Lived in Castle Priory, Berkshire, with his wife, four children and three staff. Three of his children are recorded as artists.


The Bristol Times. Exhibition review.

“‘The Old Master’: James Hayllar. This is a striking example of the skill that distinguishes this artist in his dealings with subjects of homely English life. It shows us the home of a respectable yeoman, from which death has separated him; his remains lying in his coffin in the neat, well-kept parlour of the farmhouse. His aged and apparently childless widow is sitting in her armchair by the side of the coffin, while a large group of labourers assembled near are taking their last look at ‘the old master.’ To the spectator of the picture there is little visible of the dead man-we are not shocked by an obtrusive view of the corpse, we only obtain a suggestive glimpse of the features, a pale gleam of light just sufficiently determining the upper part of the profile, the rest of the face and the figure being hidden by the coffin.

It is the sorrowful and touching story of our common life - a home is darkened somewhere every day by the dread presence of the inevitable ‘great visitor,’ and it has been rendered with a tenderly sympathetic and kindly feeling, and with a profound truthfulness and pathos that cannot fail to leave its impression on the minds of those who see the picture. The aged widow is an admirable type of the English country housewife; she looks the representative character of a farmhouse matron, shrewd, sensible, kindly, and firm, and we gather at once, from the appearance of her and her surroundings, the useful, thrifty, respectable life led by the worthy couple.

All the labourers, too, are striking and lifelike studies - some are old, some young and lusty, but all are invested with a distinctive individuality faithful to the life, and the truthful appropriate expressions of the faces could not be well overpraised; but nothing has been omitted that could conduce to the effect and sentiment of the picture, and the management of the light and shade, with its quietude of subdued breadth, is made of the greatest value, in assisting in the impressive solemnity of the scene. All the details are admirably executed, the textures and colours of objects unsurpassable for imitative truth - note the painting of the black oak table in the foreground, and the illusive effect of the reflection of the flowers on its surface. Although a subject seemingly too painful, and, as many would think, unsuitable for a picture, it has been rendered most covetable by the way in which the artist has dealt with it.

It has been executed with such a feeling of discriminating truth and refinement, and is pervaded with such a reverential solemnity of sentiment, that we cannot resist its attractiveness nor the impression that, as a work of art, it is as beautiful as it is touching and sympathetic.”


Together with George Dunlop Leslie (1835–1921), he produced a portrait of Queen Victoria to celebrate her Golden Jubilee.


Lived in St Peter, Berkshire, with his wife, two daughters (both artists) and three staff.

The Manchester Courier. Exhibition review.

“Near to this is another character painting ‘Good Folks are Scarce’ by James Hayllar, which will no doubt attract a good deal of attention. An old man - apparently a farmer - is about to start on a journey. Through the partly open door is seen a vehicle standing in the snow. A little girl, a granddaughter presumably, is handing the old man his hat and umbrella; a young woman is pouring out a cup of coffee, while the grandmother is warming an overcoat at the fire. The scene is altogether a pleasant one. Each character is full of life, and in every detail the work is cleverly executed.”


Jackson’s Oxford Journal.

“Mr Hayllar’s Pictures - As on former occasions Mr. James Hayllar, of the Castle Priory, kindly threw open his studio on Wednesday morning for an inspection by his friends and neighbours of the pictures painted for this year's exhibition by himself and daughters. The largest canvas is a cleverly detailed cottage interior showing an old man playing draughts with a boy, whose face shows exultation at signs of victory. The picture will, we are sure, attract attention. It bears no title but these lines:- ‘To teach his grandson draughts his leisure he'd employ, Till in his turn the old man was beaten by the boy.’

Mr. Hayllar's other painting is a large size one of his daughter, Mrs. H. W. Wells. Miss Jessica Hayllar exhibits two works, ‘The finishing touch,’ and ‘When first we met,’ both figure subjects, the former being a young lady who has just completed her toilet, adding a bouquet of violets; the latter showing the diffidence of a little boy at meeting a little girl, which is not shared by the latter; ‘A 5 o'clock tea’ is in the background, the picture is full of colour, and the subject is particularly pleasing.

‘Entangled’ is the name of a work by Miss Edith Hayllar, showing two lovers seated. The young man is holding the girl's skein of silk, and is looking into her eyes. The same artist also exhibits a mother measuring her child's height against the door; ‘Five feet nothing in his socks’ is the same aptly given to this piquant little picture. Miss Kate Hayllar, whose speciality still seems to be water colours, exhibits an elegant bric-à-brac study, ‘Roba di Roma’ (things of Rome), which is a little gem of its kind.”


The Berks & Oxon Advertiser.

“Several artists residing on the banks of the Upper Thames will be represented on the walls of the Royal Academy this year. Mr. G. D. Leslie, R.A., whose pretty riverside residence at Wallingford will be well known to many frequenters of the Thames. sends ‘November Sunshine’ (81), a view of Wallingford Bridge, and ‘Toby’ (231). Mr. James Hayllar, who is a neighbour of Mr. Leslie at Wallingford, has one picture, and his two daughters, who are great lovers of the river, are also represented. Mr. Hayllar's picture is ‘Their Daughter's Christmas Present’ (826). Miss Edith Hayllar sends ‘Five o'clock tea’ (132), and Miss Jessie Hayllar, ‘Sweet-scented Roses’ (738).”


Moved to Bournemouth.


Lived in Bournemouth with his wife and two staff.


The Bournemouth Graphic.

“In every movement which has for its object the encouragement of artists or the advancement of art, Mr. James Hayllar is always to the fore. Himself a master whose name is already written upon the roll of England's best painters, Mr. Hayllar is ever ready to act as guide, counsellor and friend to those who are starting on the road which he has so successfully traversed.

The Bournemouth Art Society, which has proved such a godsend to many local aspirants, owes much to his unfailing interest and indefatigable energy. In all matters where the assistance of an expert is necessary, it is his advice that is sought and acted upon. The work of arranging the annual exhibitions, held in the spring and autumn, is carried out entirely by Mr. Hayllar, and only those who have witnessed the anxious care with which he sets about the difficult task of displaying the various exhibits to the best advantage, can properly appreciate the value of his labours in this direction.

Mr. Hayllar was for many years one of the best known among British artists, and a regular exhibitor at Burlington House. Free from the eccentricities of the impressionist school, his paintings are characterised by exquisite colouring and the most perfect finish. Instead of harking back to the stories and legends of bygone years, he found his types and his subjects among those around him, and transferred to his canvases the life of our own day. Engravings of his works have met with a large circulation; and readers of the ‘English Illustrated’ will recollect the reproduction of his charming picture, ‘Miss Lily's Carriage stops the Way,’ which appeared in that magazine some few years ago.”


The Bournemouth Graphic.

“When I looked in at the Central Hall on Friday morning Mr. James Hayllar, the chairman, was busy putting the finishing touches to the Annual Spring Exhibition of the Bournemouth Art Society. Later on I spent a very pleasant half-hour in his company, viewing the unusually large number of pictorial exhibits which lined the walls. Mr. Hayllar is an art enthusiast, and I had no difficulty in getting him to talk of the work entailed in the arrangement of this creditable collection of amateur work, in which he takes such an interest.

"The society was started by Miss C. A. Rooper, of Pen Selwood,' the hon. sec., as far back as 1886," said my guide, "and her object was the encouragement of local art students. It is interesting to recall the fact that the first exhibition was held in Miss Rooper's own drawing room. But times have changed since then," said Mr. Hayllar, with a smile, "for although the society has no permanent home, its exhibitions have been held in various parts of the town. I think, however, we have come to look upon the Central Hall as our headquarters now, for it is one of the most suitable buildings for an exhibition of this kind in the town. Its position is very convenient, and the lighting arrangements could not be improved upon.

When one considers the fact that the larger part of the work hung on these walls is done by amateurs, I think you will agree with me that it is not only encouraging to us, but highly creditable to the exhibitors themselves. Of course, here and there you may find some crude bits of colour work which is not quite up to our standard, but you must understand that the ‘Hanging Committee’ of the Bournemouth Art Society is a law unto itself, and does not - like the authorities at Burlington House - reject any work sent in. We believe, you see, that the mere fact of hanging an inferior picture encourages the artist to make greater efforts to attain success. And I am not sure that we are not right. This year, for instance, there are a number of purely amateur works which are so far removed from the ordinary amateur rut that they would compare very favourably with many similar pictures exhibited in the London galleries.”

"I daresay you have noticed the large number of portfolios containing watercolour sketches in the present exhibition. They are an entirely new feature, and it was our intention when inviting the entry of these to do away with the exhibition in the autumn, which is purely one of unframed pictures, and to concentrate all our efforts upon the spring show. We have accordingly decided to discontinue the later exhibition. Another slight alteration which the committee have deemed it advisable to make is the abandonment of a class for photographic exhibits, owing to the poor response made of recent years. This is due, I think, in large part to the establishment in Bournemouth of a separate society for the practice and study of photographic art. And naturally photographic students, pure and simple, prefer to see their efforts in this direction at a photographic exhibition rather than at one of a more general character, such as this." "How is the society supported?" I asked.

"The financial arrangements," said Mr. Hayllar, "are not of a very formidable character. The society is chiefly supported by the subscriptions of the members, which is of a very moderate figure, by the donations of friends, and the entrance fees and admission charges connected with the exhibition. It is interesting to note that we offer prizes of one guinea and half a guinea for the best and second best pictures illustrating a given subject exhibited by an amateur, and like amounts for the best work in the fancy needlework section. This year the special subject was 'A Village Street,' and there were 15 competitors, of whom Miss Dorset Farmar took the first prize with a picture of Corfe. Mr. MacDonald Clarke, formerly art master at the Science and Art School, was the judge."


Lived in Bournemouth with his daughter, Jessica, and two staff.


Died in Bournemouth.

Stay In Touch
Subscribe to our Wednesday newsletter for the latest finds and 10% off your order.