Heywood Hardy was a painter and etcher of animals, portraits, genre and sporting paintings. He was born in Chichester on 25 November 1842 and, like so many artists in his day, belonged to a family of painters. His father James Hardy was a respected landscape artist and his older brother James Hardy Jnr was a sensitive painter of horses and dogs, often in English and Scottish Highland hunting scenes.
Hardy left home at the age of 17 and attempted to earn a living painting animal paintings. Hardy did this successfully and, after a short time with the 7th Somerset Volunteers, Hardy borrowed some money from his brother and travelled to Paris. In 1864 Hardy entered the Beaux Arts to study under the battle artist Pielse.
Upon his return to England in 1868 he found his services as an artist were in great demand. He was frequently invited to country estates where he was commissioned to paint portraits, sporting scenes, and animal studies. Among his many patrons were the Sitwells of Renishaw.
Though he continued to enjoy such commissions, he decided to concentrate on painting genre subjects. Although considered mainly a painter of hunting and sporting scenes, Hardy’s talents were much more broad than that, and many of his paintings are genre. When compared to other British artists of his day (the late Victorian era), Hardy’s style appears closer to the Impressionists. This, perhaps, is not surprising, since he studied in Paris during the height of the Impressionist Movement and is bound to have been influenced by them, although he doesn’t completely abandon the British School.
In 1870 Hardy and his family moved to St John’s Wood, London – an area then popular with artists. During this period Hardy’s career flourished and he was elected a member of a number of societies including the Royal Society of Painters and Etchers, The Royal Institute of Oil Painters and The Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
In 1909 Hardy moved to West Sussex and at the age of 83 he painted the first in a series of eight panel paintings depicting religious scenes for the chancel of Clymping Church, to mark its 700th anniversary in 1952. At the time these panels caused considerable controversy as they depicted Christ walking on the Sussex Downs and local farmland, amidst modern figures, said to be residents from nearby villages.
Throughout his career, Hardy exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution, Suffolk Street, the Old Watercolour Society and the New Gallery.
Hardy was also an accomplished illustrator who contributed to the Illustrated London News and the Graphic.