NPG - Papers of John Hayes

Scope and Content

The following materials can be found in John Hayes' papers:

-records relating to his work for the National Portrait Gallery

-records relating to his work for external bodies

-records relating to his portrait research

-private papers and personal effects

Administrative / Biographical History

John Trevor Hayes (1929-2005) was born on 21 Jan 1929 at 18 Fursby Avenue, Finchley, London, the elder son of Leslie Thomas Hayes, actuary, and his wife, Gwendoline, née Griffiths. He was educated at Ardingly College and at Keble College, Oxford, where he graduated with a second-class degree in modern history in 1951. He went on to the University of London's Courtauld Institute of Art in 1952, where he gained a distinction in the postgraduate diploma in the history of art in 1954. In 1962 he received the degree of PhD from the Courtauld Institute for his thesis on the landscape paintings of Thomas Gainsborough.

In 1954 he was appointed assistant keeper of the London Museum in Kensington Palace. In 1958 he was awarded a one year Commonwealth Fund fellowship that enabled him to study at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York as a Research Scholar. After his return he curated a Gainsborough exhibition for the Arts Council and in 1962 he received his PhD for research into Gainsborough's landscape paintings. He was Visiting Professor of Fine Arts at Yale University from 1960-70.

In 1970 he was appointed director of the London Museum and oversaw its amalgamation with the Guildhall Museum and subsequent move to the new location at London Wall as the Museum of London.

In 1974 he successfully applied for the position of director of the National Portrait Gallery, a post he held until his retirement in 1994. As Director of the Gallery he worked to enhance the Gallery's reputation as a centre for scholarship in historic British portraiture, staging exhibitions devoted to Van Dyck in England, Sir Peter Lely (both curated by Sir Oliver Millar), Johan Zoffany, and Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Hayes also focused his efforts on the following three major issues: securing more space, changing the policy with regard to commissioning portraits and facilitating the display of Collection to regional audiences.

Despite Hayes' considerable efforts, plans to move the institution to larger premises in London were never realised. In 1987 he managed to persuade the government to purchase buildings located to the north of the Gallery, at Orange Street. This allowed relocation - completed in 1993 - of the Gallery's archives and library, administration and curatorial offices and conservation studio. In addition, in 1989 the remodelled ground floor of the gallery, incorporating a new twentieth-century gallery and the Wolfson exhibition gallery, were opened to the public.

In 1979 Hayes persuaded the Trustees to extend the collecting policy to allow commissions and in 1980 he established the annual portrait award, both of which led to the Gallery's significant role in the revival of portraiture in the 1980s.

In 1979 as a result of collaboration with the National Trust, the Gallery's regional partnership initiative - displaying eighteenth century works from the Collection - opened at Beningbrough Hall. In 1982 this work was expanded when the Gallery established a partnership with Clwyd County Council, and began restoration works at Bodelwyddan Castle in Denbighshire in order to facilitate the display of nineteenth-century portraits.

Hayes also pioneered the 'acceptance-in-lieu' scheme, which allowed works allocated to public museums in lieu of tax to be retained in their historic setting. He regularly published articles in the Burlington Magazine and Apollo on various aspects of art and art history. His main area of interest remained the life and work of the eighteenth-century painter Thomas Gainsborough. In 1960 he organized an exhibition of the artist's work for the Arts Council and in 1970 he published the full catalogue 'The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough'. This was followed a year later by 'Gainsborough as a Printmaker' and in 1982 by another catalogue 'The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough'. Hayes' last major publication on Gainsborough was an edition of 'The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough' in 2001. He also published books on Thomas Rowlandson in 1972 and on Graham Sutherland in 1980, as well as the catalogue of the British paintings in the National Gallery of Art, Washington in 1992.

Hayes was chairman of the Walpole Society from 1981 to 1996 and vice-president from 1996 until his death. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1971 and was appointed CBE in 1986.

In August 2005 he suffered a severe stroke and subsequently died at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, from complications related to his condition on Christmas day 2005.

Please note this description is based on Brian Allen, 'Hayes, John Trevor (1929–2005)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Jan 2009 online edition, accessed Jan 2010

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Other Finding Aids

The complete catalogue for this archive can be searched via the NPG Archive Catalogue .

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.