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Hayes, John

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Hayes, John

    Other Names:

    • John Trevor Hayes

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1929

    Date Died: 2005

    Place Born: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Place Died: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom


    Gainsborough scholar and director of the National Portrait Gallery, 1974-1994. Hayes was the son of an actuary, Leslie Thomas Hayes and Gwendolyn (Hayes). After attending Ardingly college in Sussex he graduated in modern history from Keble College, Oxford. He received an advanced degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1954. That year he was appointed curator of the London Museum, then in the Kensington Palace. His first exhibition, on Anna Pavlova, included her Swan dress which the Museum owned. He was awarded a Commonwealth Fund fellowship in 1958-59 to study at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; examining Gainsboroughs in the United States. In 1960, Hayes launched an exhibition of Gainsborough’s drawings for the Arts Council of Great Britain. He issued permanent holdings catalogs of the London Museum collection in 1961 and 1970. Hayes’s completed his Ph.D. in 1962 on Gainsborough’s landscapes, among the first serious study of that British painter. A general exhibition of Gainsborough’s landscapes under Hayes’ direction was held at Nottingham in 1962. Hayes was a visiting professor at Yale University in 1969, a visit he used to strengthened his ties with American collections. Returning to the London Museum, he published a catalog of the Gainsborough drawings in 1970. Hayes initiated artist reference files, akin to the Witt library system he had known at the Courtauld, today the core of the Museum of London’s resources. In 1970 he was appointed director, establishing a department of modern history under Colin Sorensen. In 1971 Hayes published the definitive work on Gainsborough’s prints. Hayes wrote two popular introductions, one to Thomas Rowlandson’s watercolors and drawings in 1972. He assisted with the 1974 move of the Museum to the Barbican Centre, which, combined with the Guildhall Museum, was renamed “the Museum of London.” In 1974, Hayes was denied the directorship of the new Museum London. Instead he was appointed director the National Portrait Gallery, London, succeeding Roy C. Strong. A second popular treatment book, on Gainsborough’s painting and drawings, appeared in 1975. At the NPG, Hayes instituted commissioning portraits and established a consistent policy for acquisition, something the flamboyant Strong was accused of neglecting. Under Hayes’ direction, the National Portrait Award was established. He created two annexes for the NPG, one devoted to Victorian portraits, Beningborough Hall in Yorkshire and another, Bodelwyddan, in north Wales. He also pioneered the agreement of keeping portraits in situ in important locations, such as at Arundel Castle. His acquisitions for the Gallery included three Van Dycks (acquired in four years), the Queen Elizabeth portrait at Warwick Castle, a full-length portrait of Edward VI, portrait busts of Lord Chesterfield by Roubiliac (successfully outbidding the Victoria & Albert Museum), another of Alexander Pope by Rysbrack, one of William Pitt the Elder by Joseph Wilton, and accepted a self-portrait by Graham Sutherland. He also commissioned a portrait of Diana, Princess of Wales by Bryan Organ in 1979. Hayes partnered with other museums to host Oliver Millar‘s show on Sir Peter Lely, another on the Raj, and photographic exhibitions by Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe. His catalog of the Gainsborough landscape paintings appeared in 1982. After a series of aborted plans to move the Gallery to new locations, Hayes oversaw the creation of 20th-century galleries and the Wolfson exhibition gallery as well as new the Heinz Library. His deputy, Malcolm Rogers, became director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Hayes retired in 1994, mounting a special retirement exhibition at the Gallery on Thomas Eakins. In 1996 he was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Hayes was hired to catalog the British paintings in the National Gallery of Art, Washgington, D. C. in 1997. His pioneering exhibition at the Tate Gallery in 1980 led to others in Paris (1981) and Ferrara in 1998. A catalog on the collection of the late Sir Edwin Manton, who holdings featured Gainsborough and Rowlandson prominently, appeared as A New York Private Collection the same year. An edition of Gainsborough’s letters appeared by him in 2000. Hayes suffered a stroke in 2004 and died the following January. A draft a book about Gainsborough’s subject pictures remained unpublished along with the collection catalog for the Cincinnati Art Museum. Methodologically, he was cool to the so-called “new art history” considering newer interpretations of Gainsborough’s landscapes speculative at best. Where his predecessor at the Portrait Gallery, Strong, used the gallery as an instrument of public history, Hayes focused on portraiture as an art form

    Selected Bibliography

    [Tate exhibition] Thomas Gainsborough. London: Tate Gallery, 1980; Gainsborough: Paintings and Drawings. London: Phaidon, 1975; edited, The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001; [Ferrara exhibition] Thomas Gainsborough: Ferrara, Palazzo dei diamanti. Ferrara: Ferrara arte, 1998; The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough: a Critical Text and Catalogue raisonné. 2 vols. London: Sotheby Publications, 1982; The Art of Graham Sutherland. Oxford: Phaidon, 1980; Catalogue of the Oil Paintings in the London Museum. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1970.


    [obituaries:] Butlin, Martin. “John Hayes: Prolific Art Historian and Gainsborough Expert who Reinvigorated the National Portrait Gallery Collection.” Guardian (London), January 13, 2006 p. 40; “John Hayes.” The Times (London), January 14, 2006, p. 78; “John Hayes Head of the National Portrait Gallery and the Leading Authority on Gainsborough.” The Daily Telegraph (London), January 4, 2006, p. 19.



    "Hayes, John." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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