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George Romney, 1734–1802

John Flaxman Modeling the Bust of William Hayley

Former Title(s):

John Flaxman Modelling His Bust of William Hayley

1795 to 1796
Oil on canvas
89 x 57 inches (226.1 x 144.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
artist | boy | breeches | bust | father | Georgian | men | modeling (forming) | portrait | sculptor | sculpture | son | stockings | studio (work space) | writer
Associated People:
Hayley, William (1745–1820), poet and biographer
Hayley, Thomas Alphonso (1780–1800), sculptor
Flaxman, John (1755–1826), sculptor
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

In September 1795, George Romney began this portrait, one of his last and greatest, to commemorate the close friendship between the four sitters. It shows John Flaxman working on a monumental bust of the poet William Hayley with help from his apprentice, Thomas Alphonso Hayley, the poet’s illegitimate son. To the far left is a self-portrait of Romney hiding behind his cloak and clutching a palette. The painting proved to be a source of contention between Romney and Hayley. Thomas died young in 1800, and Hayley wanted the painting to remember his son, claiming “it was painted explicitly for me!” The ailing Romney was willing to bequeath it to Hayley but demanded Hayley in turn bequeath it to his friend Thomas Greene. The situation was never resolved and, what had been conceived as a memorial of friendship, ultimately caused a painful dispute between the two during Romney’s last years.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016-present

George Romney painted this magnificent full-length portrait as a gesture of friendship to all three figures, and included a charming self-portrait in the top left corner, smiling through spectacles. The poet and biographer William Hayley, who stands to the left of center, was a determined cultivator of artists, poets, and rich and famous men. He had earlier addressed a rambling Epistle on Painting (1778) to Romney. Hayley's son Thomas (Tom) Alphonso, who has his back to us, was illegitimate but cherished, the product of an affair with Miss Betts, the daughter of Hayley's former nursemaid. Tom showed talent as an artist and became Romney's pupil-Hayley called him "young Phideas" to the neoclassical sculptor Flaxman's "Dear Praxiteles." Like Hayley, Flaxman enjoyed the friendship of the more senior Romney, but also his patronage.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005

Art in Focus : John Flaxman Modeling Bust of William Hayley (Yale Center for British Art, 2010-02-04 - 2010-05-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Citizens and Kings, Portraiture in the Age of David and Goya - 1770-1830 (Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2006-10-02 - 2007-01-09) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

George Romney (1734-1802) (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 2002-09-15 - 2002-12-01) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

George Romney (1734-1802) (National Portrait Gallery, 2002-05-30 - 2002-08-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

George Romney (1734-1802) (Walker Art Gallery, 2002-02-07 - 2002-04-28) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Edwin Ahlstrom, A Palette of George Romney, Transactions of the Romney Society, vol. 11, 2006, pp. 6, 8, figs. 4 and 5, NJ18 R65 T7 2006 (YCBA) [YCBA]

David Bindman, The History of British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2008, pp. 68-69(v.2), pl. 33, N6761 +H57 2008 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Morchard Bishop, Blake's Hayley ; the life, works, and friendships of William Hayley, Gollancz, 1951, pp. 203, 290, PR3605.H9 B5 1951 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Morchard Bishop, The Poet and the Attorney : the story of a legacy, Book Collector, vol. 21, Summer 1972, pp. 245-54, Pl. 1, VF 2365 (YCBA) Journal Volume is available at SML: X353 B462 (SML) [YCBA]

William Blake, The letters of William Blake : with related documents, Oxford University Press, London; New York, 1980, p. 6, PR4146 A4 1980 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Rebecca N. Blass, The Hermit of Eartham : William Hayley and his Friendship with George Romney, vol. 5, 2000, pp. 12, 14, pl.2, NJ18 R65 2000 (YCBA) [YCBA]

David Brenneman, Romney Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Transactions of the Romney Society, vol. 1, 1996, pp. 17-18, NJ18 R65 T7 1996 (YCBA) [YCBA]

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, April 1977, pp. 249, 251, fig. 27, N1 .A54 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Arthur Bensley Chamberlain, George Romney, Methuen & co., ltd., London, 1910, pp. 49-50, 132, 204-05, 332, NJ18 R65 C43 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christie's sale catalogue : Catalogue of Pictures by Old Masters ... : 26 June 1925, Christie's, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, Friday, June 26, 1925, pp. 12, 13, Lot 71, Fiche B51 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christie's sale catalogue : Catalogue of Pictures by Old Masters ... : 26 June 1936, Christie's, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, Friday, June 16, 1936, p. 14, Lot 81, Fiche B51 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christie's sale catalogue : Catalogue of Pictures by Old Masters ... : 28 January 1916, Christie's, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, Friday, January 28, 1916, p. 11, Lot 51, Fiche B51 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Citizens and kings, portraits in the age of revolution 1760-1830. , Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2007, p. 133, fig. 53, ND1314.4 C5713 2007 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 192-193, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

David A. Cross, George Romney : Patterns of Friendship, Transactions of the Romney Society, vol. 1, 1996, p. 20, NJ18 R65 T7 2000 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Philip Edwards, Romney to Wordsworth : the Spirit of the Agw, , Transactions of the Romney Society, vol. 12, 2007, pp. 2, 21, Frontpiece, NJ18 R65 T7 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Hilda Gamlin, George Romney and his art, The Macmillan Company, London; New York, 1894, p. 266, J18 R666 894G (SML) [ORBIS]

George Romney as a painter of children : a loan exhibition ... to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the painter's birth, with an introd. by Brian Allen ... 30th May until 30th June, 1984 ... , Leger Galleries, London, 1984, cat. no. 22, NJ18 R65 A55 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Catherine M. Gordon, British paintings Hogarth to Turner, Frederick Warne, London, 1981, p 60, ND466 G67 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ronald Sutherland Gower, George Romney, by Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, Duckworth and Co., London, 1904, pp. 82-3, NJ18 R65 G67 [ORBIS]

Edward Hailstone, Portraits of Yorkshire worthies: selected from the National exhibition of works of art at Leeds, 1868. With biographical notices, Cundall, London, 1869, v. 2, pages are unnumbered, no. CLXXVII, Byy 41 (LSF) Negative microfilmcopy also avaaible for scanning [Film B16353:4 SML(a)] [ORBIS]

William Hayley, The life of George Romney, W. Mason, Chichester, 1809, pp.54-5, ND497 R7 H43 1809+ [ORBIS]

C. Lewis Hind, Romney ... illustrated with eight reproductions in colour, T.C. & E.C. Jack, London; New York, p. 53, J18 R666 907H (SML) [ORBIS]

Iveagh Bequest, George Romney, 1734-1802 : paintings and drawings : [exhibition at] the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, London County Council, London, 1961, pp. 26-27, no. 39, NJ18 R65 I83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Alex Kidson, George Romney : a complete catalogue of his paintings, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, 2015, v. 1, pp. 215-218, cat. no. 454, col. pl. 454, NJ18.R65 A12 +K54 2015 v.1-3 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Alex Kidson, George Romney, 1734-1802, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2002, pp. 1, 229-31, no. 145, NJ18 R65 K53 2002 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Alex Kidson, Those delightful regions of imagination, essays on George Romney , no. 9, Yale University Press, New Haven, London, 2002, p. 214, NJ18 R65 T57 2002 (YCBA) [YCBA]

B. E. Maclean-Eltham, George Romney : Paintings in public collections, , The Romney Society, Kendal, Cumbria, England, 1996, p. 28, NJ18 R65 M33 1996 [ORBIS]

Todd Magreta, George Romney's Late Portrait Groups at Abbot Hall and Yale, British Art Journal, vol. VIII, Autumn 2007, p. 58, 61, 62-64, Pl. 3, N6761 B74 + (YCBA) Also available online (ORBIS) [YCBA]

Sir Herbert Maxwell, George Romney ; illustrated with twenty plates and a photogravure portrait as frontispiece, Walter Scott Publishing Co., Ltd., 1902, p. 176, nos. 123 and 200, WB 20052 (LSF) Copy of London edition is also available : Baskin 494 (BRBL) [ORBIS]

Suzanne E. May, " Sublime and infernal reveries " : George Romney and the creation of an eighteenth-century history painter, Thesis (Ph.D.) -- John Moores University, Liverpool, 2007 , British Thesis Service, Boston Spa, Wetherby, April 2007, v. 1, pp. 189-92, v.2, fig. 195, NJ18.R65 M39 2007A OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

George Paston, George Romney ... With forty illustrations, Methuen & co., ltd., London, 1903, pp, 153-54, 191, WA 7718 (LSF) [ORBIS]

Robin Simon, Royal Academy of Arts: History and Collections, New Haven, p. 191, fig. 162, N1100 A869 2018 (LC) Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sarah Symmons, Forcible Sentiments and Ancient Tales : Flaxman , Romney and the Sharing of Inspiration, Transactions of the Romney Society, vol. 6, 2001, pp. 9, 10 [fn 27], 36, pl. 6, NJ18 R65 T7 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Nadia Tscherny, George Romney : Flaxman modelling the bust of Hayley, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1985 ?, cover, pp. 1-6, no. 1, V 0101 (YCBA) [YCBA]

R. J. B. Walker, Regency portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1985, pp.186-187, 241(vol. 1), pl. 552 (vol. 2), N1090 A592 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Jean Wallis, " Everything in Flux " : George Romney - by Himself, vol. 6, 2001, pp. 36, 37-38, Pl. 6, NJ18 R65 T7 (2001) [ORBIS]

Thomas Humphry Ward, Romney : A Biographical and Critical Essay with a Catalogue Raisonne´ of His Works, , , Thos. Agnew & Sons, London, 1904, pp. 54-5, NJ18 R65 A12 +W37 v.1-2 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Ellis Waterhouse, An Impressive Panorama of British Portraiture, Apollo, v. 105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 249, 251, fig. 27, N1 A54 + (YCBA) Another copy of this article may be found in a separately bound and catalogued copy of this issue located on the Mellon Shelf [call number : N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA)] [YCBA]

Windows on that world, essays on British art presented to Brian Allen , The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 2012, pp. 199, 201, 202, fig. 105, N6766 .W56 2012 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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