James Hayllar

(1829 - 1920)



Hayllar was born in Chichester in Sussex (now West Sussex), and received his training in art at Cary's Art Academy in London; he painted Cary's portrait in 1851. He went on to study at the Royal Academy.

Hayllar travelled in Italy from 1851–53. He was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy from 1850–98, and also showed work at the British Institution and the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA) -- of which he was a member; (his work could most often be seen at Suffolk Street, of which he was a member. He first became known as a portrait painter, but later turned his brush to genre art, often featuring pretty young girls; his work became very popular. With George Dunlop Leslie (who also lived in Wallingford at the same time), he painted a large portrait of Queen Victoria to celebrate her Golden Jubilee in 1887 -- the painting now hangs in Wallingford Town Hall.

He married Edith Phoebe Cavell (1827–1899), the aunt of Edith Cavell -- the famous British nurse who was to be shot by the Germans for "treason" during World War I. They lived at a house called "Castle Priory" n Wallingford on the River Thames in Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) from 1875–99; scenes from village life in the area often featured in his work there. The couple went on to have 9 children, of whom four became recognised artists. After the death of his wife in 1899, he moved to Bournemouth.

Hayllar had four sons and five daughters, four of whom, Edith Hayllar (1860–1948), Jessica Hayllar (1858–1940), Mary Hayllar (1863–c. 1950), and Kate Hayllar (fl. 1883–1900), became notable artists in their own right; all received their training from their father and exhibited at the Royal Academy.



English genre, portrait and landscape painter. Entered the Royal Academy in 1849. Went to Rome in 1851, remaining some years in the Italian art centers. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy, in 1851, a portrait. Among his earlier works are,
"The Teetotaler and the Tippler,"
"Book-Worm and Grub,"
"Birds of a Feather,"
"Carpenter's Workshop,"
"Once a Week,"
"A Stitch in Time,"
"Life or Death,"
"Going to the Drawing-Room," and
"Two's Company, Three is None."
In 1865, he painted "Queen Elizabeth's Toothache";
in 1866, "Miss Lilly's Carriage stops the Way ";
in 1867, "Miss Lilly's Return from the Ball";
in 1869, "School";
in 1870, "The Rector's Little Daughter";
in 1871, "The Eve of the Wedding";
in 1872, "Links in the Chain of Life";
in 1873, "The Queen, God bless her!";
in 1874, "My Legal Adviser";
in 1875, "The Only Daughter" and
"The Thames at Pangbourne"; in 1875, "As Careful as a Mother" and
"Obstructives."
He is a member of the Society of British Artists.

"Hayllar appears to have lapsed in his system of execution into the ways of the 'blotespue school,' as Mr. Ruskin named it. We trust he will resume his earlier and more careful manner. "A French Fisherwoman," which he exhibited a few years ago, was a capital piece of painting." -- Palgrave's Essays on Art.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century, their Work & Biographical Sketches, Clara Erskine Clement & Laurence Hutton, 1879.


The Artist's Sister 1882




Queen Victoria's Jubilee, 1887



A Family of Artists.

In our last issue we published a note on an interesting subject, heredity in art. Perhaps the most notable example of the inherited artistic instinct is shown in the Hayllar family, six members of which -- father, son. and four daughters -- were all quite recently represented in the Royal Academy, London, in the same exhibition. It can be said of few families that six members are artists, as in the case of the Hayllars of Wallingford. Mr. James Hayllar was born the same year as Millais -- 1829; he married the same year, and had the same number of children -- nine-- and, like Millais, five daughters and four sons.

It is fifty years ago since James Hayllar became a student at the Royal Academy, and he exhibited his first picture in the year of the great Exhibition. During these forty-nine years has the work of this veteran artist been seen at the various exhibitions, and last year not one of the least successful of his pictures, "It is Never too Old to Learn," was on the line in the R.A..

Mr. Hayllar as a young man spent two years in Rome; for Rome was as popular then with artists as Paris has since become. At the same life-class which he attended went Leighton, remarkable then for his wonderful drawings in pencil. It was in the studio Mr. Hayllar had in Rome that Leighton painted the picture of Cimabue which made him famous, and which was bought by the Queen when exhibited at the Academy nearly forty years ago.

For the last twenty-five years Mr. Hayllar has lived in one of the most charming houses on the Thames, close to Wallingford Bridge, and during this time he has almost wholly devoted himself to painting pictures of country life -- pictures in which, as he says, he has endeavoured to show the svmpathy existing between the well-to-do and the labouring classes. The artist has a store of stories to tell of his country models, many of whom are derelicts who have to depend upon what the parish allows them for their maintenance. Visitors to the Royal Academy may have been struck by the work of the daughters, especially of Miss Jessica Hayllar and her sister Kate, for the pictures, always on a small scale, are marvels of painstaking labour. The old Dutch painters, like Ostade and Teniers, could finish highly, but not more so than the Hayllar girls, whose only master has been their father.

Pearson's Magazine, Vol. VIII. July to December, 1899, C. Arthur Pearson Limited, 1899.



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Jessica Hayllar (1858 - 1940)

A painter primarily of figure subjects, particularly featuring children, interiors and flowers, Jessica Hayllar came from a family well steeped in artistic tradition and was the daughter of artist James Hayllar, RBA (1829-1920). Like her sisters, Kate and Mary, Jessica studied under her father whose penchant for Pre-Raphaelite realism and colouring was to be extremely influential in her formative years. Jessica made her Exhibition debut in 1879 and frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1880 and 1915. Her best work, executed between 1885-1900, typically depicts quiet domestic scenes, with closely observed detail demonstrating a great naturalness and charm. These paintings were mainly executed at her Father's House, Castle Priory in Wallingford on the Thames. In 1900, Jessica was crippled in an accident and after this date she concentrated on painting only flower subjects, particularly featuring Azaleas.

Jessica always introduces figures in her pictures, but she is just as careful in her rendering of the textiles and surroundings. Background for their pictures they find in their charming old house.

In these days of cheap, slipshod work it is some distinction to be able to win success by the loving, skilful labour so unremittingly given to bringing their pictures to the state of completeness that makes them unique in a modern gallery. Fancy spending six months of your working time in finishing a picture no larger than half a sheet of notepaper!

Pearson's Magazine, Vol. VIII. July to December, 1899, C. Arthur Pearson Limited, 1899.


Edith Hayllar (1860 - 1948)

Edith Hayllar was the second eldest daughter of the artistic Hayllar family. Edith and her sisters, Jessica, Mary, and Kate, were all talented artists trained by their father, James Hayllar, a highly acclaimed painter known for his genre paintings of Victorian life. Like their father, the four sisters, the most successful of which were Edith and Jessica, painted scenes of day-to-day activities including playing children, boating and tennis parties, and tea gatherings on charming English afternoons.

The Hayllar family lived on the quaint estate of Castle Priory in Wallingford, England from 1875 to 1899. Edith and her sisters were given art classes by their father, learning drawing, painting, modeling, etching, mezzotint, and engraving among other media. The strict Victorian regiment of classes from ten to four each day ensured the girls’ mastery of proportion and perspective. Art aside, the girls enjoyed an active childhood, participating in outdoor sports, gardening, and gathering with their artist neighbors. Edith and Jessica, born two years apart, often set up their easels next to each other and painted from the same model. The girls’ and their father were frequently each other’s subjects, as were the residents and activities of their quiet and picturesque Berkshire village. Edith’s specialty were scenes of relaxation after the day’s sports, painted with photorealist qualities that document upper middle class Victorian life at leisure.

Edith’s first exhibition was at the Royal Society of British Artists in London in 1881, and the following year she exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts. She also showed her works at the Institute of Oil Painters and Dudley Gallery. In fact, every year during the late 1880s and 1890s, Edith, her sisters, and father all had at least one picture each exhibited at the Royal Academy. Upon marrying Reverend Bruce MacKay in 1900, and moving to Sutton Courteney shortly afterwards, Edith ended her art career. Similarly, her sisters and father’s artistic output drastically decreased after moving from Castle Priory, suggesting that the grace and magic of their childhood home was their source of inspiration.

© 2008-2012 National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.
Edith Hayllar by Jessica Hayllar


Mary Hayllar (1863 - c. 1950)

Mary Hayllar was the daughter of the successful artist, James Hayllar. She was less prolific than her sisters, only exhibiting at the Royal Academy from 1880 to 1885, mainly still lives and child subjects. While active, Hayllar painted mainly still life paintings and child subjects. A motif found in much of her work is a table set for tea. She started exhibiting at the age of seventeen but her painting activity faded after her marriage to Henry Wells in 1887; she retired from painting and bore several children. Mary was highly accomplished and delighted in recording the domestic life of the then Berkshire countryside around Wallingford.




Kate Hayllar (1864 - 1959)

[flourished] fl. 1883 - 1900

Eminent painter of genre scenes of the 19th century; was the youngest of the four artist sisters. Her work was exhibited in many galleries in London, notably at the Royal Academy and at Suffolk Street; her first exhibited painting was bought by the Princess of Wales. She concentrated particularly on the painting of flowers and still lifes and exhibited 12 paintings at the Royal Academy between 1885 and 1898, including six watercolours illustrating literary episodes. It doesn’t seem as if she ever married as she lived with her father and then her sisters her entire life. She became a nurse at the turn of the 20th century and decided to give up her painting career.

Miss Kate Hayllar paints not more than two pictures a year, and yet small as these are she has to be industrious to get through this amount of work. It requires a magnifying glass to see the work to advantage, and if genius be the faculty for taking pains, then are the Hayllar girls geniuses in deed. Miss Kate Hayllar is fond of painting a picture in a picture, and the skill with which she will copy a painting or engraving in her pictures of real life is little short of wonderful.

Pearson's Magazine, Vol. VIII. July to December, 1899, C. Arthur Pearson Limited, 1899.
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