Painter Michael Angelo Hayes is born in Waterford on July 25, 1820. Probably the best 19th century painter of animals in Ireland, Hayes is most accomplished as a watercolourist, although he occasionally uses oils.
Hayes is the son and pupil of Tipperary watercolour miniaturist Edward Hayes RHA. It is clear from his christening that he is expected to become an artist. Fortunately, the younger Hayes is a talented draughtsman, and by his late teens has acquired something of a reputation as a painter of horses and military subjects.
Hayes begins showing at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in 1837, then for three years 1840-1842. In 1842, he is appointed Military Painter-in-ordinary to the Lord Lieutenant. He passes the next few years in London, where he exhibits watercolours at the New Society of Painters in Water Colours, of which he is elected an Associate Member in 1848, the same year he makes his one and only contribution to the Royal Academy of Arts.
Returning to Dublin, Hayes resumes exhibiting at the RHA, at the same time becoming involved in its administration. He is elected an Associate member in 1853, a full Academician the following year, and Secretary in 1856. The affairs of the Academy are totally disorganized at the time, inducing Hayes and others to resolve the situation. His efforts to reform the institution and secure its finances meets with entrenched opposition from older members, which results in Hayes being removed from his post, although he is successfully reinstated in 1861.
Not long afterwards he is appointed secretary to the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Peter McSwiney, who happens to be his brother-in-law, and later becomes City Marshal in 1867. He continues as Secretary of the RHA until he resigns in 1870, and continues showing until 1874.
Hayes makes a special study of horses in motion, and in 1876 publishes his conclusions in an illustrated pamphlet, The Delineation of Animals in Rapid Motion. One of his Dublin paintings, Sackville Street, Dublin, depicts a view of Dublin’s premier street in the 1850s. The painting is a documentary of social life in Dublin. It achieves widespread popularity when reprinted as a lithograph.
Michael Angelo Hayes dies prematurely in 1877 in a tragic drowning accident at his home.