Having recently looked at the Barnes School, the Williams family of English painters featuring a father and his six sons, I am today looking at another talented English family of painters featuring a father and his four daughters. Let me introduce you to the Hayllars.
James Hayllar, the patriarch.
The patriarch of the Hayllar family was James Hayllar who was born in the West Sussex town of Chichester in 1829. Despite parental opposition he decided to become an artist and, aged thirteen, enrolled at Cary’s Art School in 1842. Francis Stephen Cary, a noted historical painter, who had once taught Rossetti and Millais, had become a pupil at Henry Sass’ Art Academy, and he, on the death of Henry Sass, took over the running of the academy in Bloomsbury and it then became known as Cary’s Art School.
An 1851 pencil and chalk portrait of Stephen Cary by James Hayllar is in London’s National Portrait Gallery.
On completing his studies at Cary’s Art School, Hayllar travelled to Europe and made a tour of the continental countries. In 1851, whilst in Rome he met Frederic Leighton. It is believed that Hayllar appears as one of the figures in Leighton’s monumental (2m x 5m) masterpiece, Cimabue’s Madonna, which he worked on between 1853 and 1855.
Granville Sharp, who was born in 1735, was a scholar who campaigned for social justice. In 1787, with his fellow Anglican Thomas Clarkson and a group of Quakers, Sharp founded the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Sharp supported the resettlement of British and Canadian slaves to Sierra Leone, but despite reports about its moral decline and the resurgence of slave trading in the colony, maintained the view that the project was worthwhile. James Hayllar’s 1864 painting Granville Sharp the abolitionist rescuing a slave from the hands of his master, depicts an event which occurred in 1765 and is based on Sharp’s involvement with the Abolitionist movement. In 1765 Sharp met Jonathan Strong, a slave seeking treatment for injuries sustained at the hands of his owner. Sharp took up Strong’s case and secured his release from prison when he was arrested as an escaped slave. Following this success Sharp began to research the legal status of slaves in Britain and argued on behalf of a number of slaves in court, which is why the background of Hayllar’s painting has the legal setting.
Hayllar exhibited his work at the Royal Academy focusing on literary and historical genre but by 1866 he changed tack and began a series of extremely well-liked genre studies of children and he completed a three painting series depicting a child attending a formal party. The first of these was Miss Lily’s Carriage stops the Way. In the first painting, Hayllar depicts a young child having her cloak adjusted before she makes an appearance at her first party.
In the second work, entitled The First Flirtation, we see the same young girl, Lily, enjoying herself at the party as she makes the acquaintance of a young boy similar in age to herself.
In the third painting entitled The Return from the Ball, Lily is seen being carried from the party by her mother, although her eyes are still open as she rests her head on her mother’s shoulder and we can see that the evening party has tired her out. She still manages to clutch her lace fan in her silk gloved hand.
The series was well received and his standing as an artist rose. His name was put forward as an Associate of the Royal Academy by William Powell Frith and Eyre Crowe, but he missed being elected by one vote and being very despondent regarding the outcome, never tried again. Having given up hope of becoming an Academician he distanced himself from the Academy circle and also distanced himself from the English capital and London life in general and moved from his St Pancras home and settled down in the rural part of Suffolk at Carlton Rookery near the town of Saxmundham and in 1875 moved to the county of Berkshire and the town of Wallingford where he rented Castle Priory, a large house on the banks of the Thames.
James Hayllar had married Ellen Phoebe Cavell in 1855 and the couple went on to have nine children, five daughters, Jessica Ellen in 1858, Edith Parvin in 1860, Eugenie Grace in 1861, Alexandra Mary in 1862 and Beatrice Kate in 1864. They also had four sons, their first-born child, William Ernest in 1855, Reginald James in 1857 and their two youngest children, Thomas and Algernon in 1866 and 1868.
Both parents and children led an exceptionally happy family life and they often played host to visiting neighbours and cousins. The days were filled with games of tennis as well as artistic endeavour. The house was to provide his family with inspiration for their paintings.
They were a very close family and of course, at a certain age, they would leave home and it is thought that James Hayllar’s 1875 painting entitled The Only Daughter was a reminder to him of the sad day when he “lost” one of his daughters. The painting depicts an only daughter standing between her beloved father and the man who was to be her future husband. His role in the young lady’s life would be to take over the protective mantle, once the role of her father and this successional responsibility is made plain by placing his head between the portraits of past generations on the wall behind him.
Hayller lived at Castle Priory until the death of his wife in 1899. He them went to live in Bournemouth where he stayed until his death in 1920, aged 91.
The daughters of James Hayllar.
Of the nine children James and Ellen had, five were daughters and it was the female members of the family that followed in the footsteps of their father. James Hayllar and his wife’s third-born child was their first daughter, Jessica.
Jessica Hayllar was born on September 16th 1858. She studied under her father and began to exhibit her art in 1879 and at the Royal Academy from 1880 to 1915. In the early days, up until 1900, her work was mainly depictions of domestic scenes of everyday life at Castle Priory. Her genre scenes were described as being ones which were full of genuine charm. For her models she nearly always used members of her family.
In 1900 she was badly injured in a carriage accident and was partially paralysed and confined to a wheelchair. From that moment the subject of her paintings changed and she started to paint floral still life works which often featured azaleas.
Jessica Hayllar lived with her parents throughout her life and never married. When her father left Castle Priory and went to live in Bournemouth she went with him. Following her father’s death in 1920, Jessica moved to Surrey to live with her younger sister Edith Hayllar MacKay.
Jessica Hayllar died on November 7th 1940, aged 82.
Alexandra Mary Hayllar
In comparison to her four sisters, Alexandra Mary Hayllar was the least prolific, and unlike her sisters, she only exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1880 to 1885. Her paintings were mainly still life works or genre pieces which featured children.
Despite her lesser output of work in comparison to that of her sisters, Mary was extremely gifted and like her sisters, she took pleasure in pictorially depicting the domestic life of the Berkshire countryside, as lived at her parents’ house, Castle Priory, Wallingford
On July 1st 1885, at the age of twenty-two, she married Henry Wells in St Marys, Wallingford and this change of status coincided with her giving up painting and taking on the accepted role of supportive wife, keeper of the home and bringing up the children. The couple had six children, two sons, Henry and Guy and four daughters, Dora, Muriel, Beatrice and Joyce. All of the children at one time or another modelled for their aunts’ paintings.
Alexandra Mary Hayllar died in 1950, aged 87.
Edith Parvin Hayllar
Edith Hayllar was the fourth child and second daughter of the British artist James Hayllar born in 1860. As was the case for most English middle- and upper-class young ladies in Victorian times, art was an essential accomplishment and Edith, like her four sisters, adhered to the Victorian system of four to ten art classes a day by their father and this was to guarantee a proficiency in the basic art techniques such as proportion and perspective. They would also be given instruction in modelling, etching, mezzotint, and engraving among other media.
Once their art lessons were completed, she and her sisters spend the rest of their time at home relaxing, partaking in outdoor sports such as tennis, plein air painting, and even some gardening. This relaxed lifestyle featured in the depiction seen in all the sisters’ paintings
Of the five sisters, Jessica Hayllar and Edith Hayllar where the most well-known painters, and like their father, James, they specialised in genre painting. It is thought that through the depictions in Edith’s paintings of women in domestic interiors with their families gave an insight into their lifestyle. The women in her genre works were observed running a well-organized households and clearly defined a woman’s role at any given time in their lives. Edith had not taken on the role as a spokesperson for female independence and was content with the term “female dependency”
Edith works of art were shown almost every year from the 1880s–1890s at the Institute for Oil Painters and Dudley’s Gallery. In 1881 she had her first piece exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists in London and then a year later, in 1882, another of her works was exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts.
Maybe her best-known and best loved painting was her 1883 work entitled A Summer Shower, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy Exhibition. It depicts a young man with a badminton racket courting a woman who is reclining in a chair next to him. Through the window in the background, we can see the inclement weather has put a stop to all outdoor sporting activities. One critic described the work as one of the most charming genre scenes of the nineteenth century.
In 1900, at the age of forty, Edith married Rev. Bruce MacKay and the couple moved to Sutton Courteney. Marriage also signalled the end of her painting career as she devoted her life to looking after the family household. Edith died in 1948, aged 88.
(Beatrice) Kate Hayllar
(Beatrice) Kate Hayllar was born on September 1st 1864 at 15 Mecklenburgh Square, London. She was the seventh child of James and Ellen Hayllar and the youngest of their five daughters. She, like her other sisters, loved to paint and were tutored by their father. Most of her ideas for her work derived from the happy life she experienced when the family lived at Castle Priory, a large Thames-side house, close to the small town of Wallingford, Oxfordshire. The family resided there from 1875 and 1899. The beautiful interior of Castle Priory, its domestic events held there, the extensive well-laid out gardens, and the nearby countryside inspired the sisters to paint and the flowers they grew became their favourite subjects. Kate Hayllar focused her work on small and intensely observed flower and still life subjects, many of which she exhibited at the Royal Academy and Royal Society of British Artists.
When her mother died in 1899 she gave up painting and became a nurse. She moved to Bournemouth with her father and sister Jessica. Later she went to live with her sister Mary at Wallingford, Berkshire.
Eugenie Grace Hayllar
Eugenie Grace Hayllar was born in St Etienne, Ardèche, Rhône-Alpes, France on August 26th 1861. She was the fifth child of James Hayllar and Ellen Phoebe Cavell. Eugenie Grace Hayllar married Robert Fletcher Leslie and the couple had two children, Harry and Charles, born in 1891 and 1893 respectively. Eugenie passed away on March 2nd 1943 in Wallingford, Berkshire, England. Her husband had died the year before.
I was unable to find any paintings attributed to her but we know that like her sisters she was taught to paint by her father.
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