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 William Bayley  (1808 - 1857)

About: William Bayley
 

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: landscape painting

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BIOGRAPHY for William Bayley
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Birth
1808 (New York City)
 
Death
1857

Lived/Active
New York

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landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
This following biography was researched, compiled, and written by Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director, Southold Historical Society, Southold, NY, 2009.

WILLIAM BAYLEY (1808 - 1857) AKA "GULIELMI BAYLEY"

Landscape painter and attorney.  Born in New York City, The son of Ann (d. 1829) and John Bayley M. D. (1775-1836).  John Bayley was the famous medical professional who served as the "Health Physician for the Port of New York," where he helped to protect the city from outbreaks of Yellow Fever, Cholera, and other infectious diseases.  He was also an ex-officio member of the New York City Board of Health.

William Bayley, like his famous father, attended Columbia College (part of Columbia University) where he trained as an attorney.  He was either very successful at his profession or (more likely) inherited money from his father, as he had amassed property valued at $30,000 by 1850.  He resided with family members at 56 Walker Street (the former residence of his parents), located in the 5th Ward of New York City.

His part time profession was that of landscape painter.  Where and under who he may have trained artistically is unknown.  He began exhibiting at the newly organized National Academy of Art & Design in New York City in 1832 (where he may also have received training).  The one known review of one of his paintings, a landscape shown that year, reveals how exciting his work apparently was to those in attendance.  The reviewer noted "No. 35  Landscape by Bayley.  -- Oh!  Mr. Bayley - Mr. Bayley, Oh!"  It does not appear that any other artists received such an 'orgasmic' response to their submissions that year.  Bayley continued to exhibit there in 1834 and then disappeared from exhibitions held at the Academy for nearly a decade.

He then appeared in exhibitions at the American Art Union from 1841 through 1843.  The Union "was a subscription-based organization founded in 1840, whose goal was to enlighten and educate an American public to a national art, while providing a support system for the viewing and sales of art “executed by (A)rtists in the United States or by American (A)rtists abroad."  The Union issued a number of prints by noted American artists in support of their mission, though none appear to have been by Bayley.  He was still a member of the Union as late as 1847, listing his address as "New York" in their annual report (Transactions of the American Art Union) for that year.

Bayley then reappeared at the National Academy, where he exhibited very regularly from 1843 through 1848.  During his lifetime at least one of his works was engraved.  The image that was printed depicts St. Philip's Church in New York City, and the engraving was done by John F. E. Prudhomme (who also did work for the American Art Union) after a work by Bayley (A copy of this engraving is held in the collection of the New York Historical Society Library).

Most of his works were landscapes depicting classically inspired views (Landscape, with Grecian Urns, 1832), scenes in New Jersey (View, on a Brook, Spottswood, New Jersey, 1845), in New York City (Landscape, with Representation of the New Trinity Church, Broadway, 1843), or upstate New York (Seneca Lake near Geneva, 1846).

He signed both using English and in Latin (for his first name), perhaps as a nod to what must have been a very rigorous and extensive education under his father.  Using Latin, his signature appears as "Gulielmi Bayley."  One known work is signed "Gulielmi Bayley op. 1844."  The "op." probably refers to the Latin word "opus," meaning "work."

Exactly what happened to Bayley and why he stopped exhibiting is a question.  We know that according to Columbia University he died in 1857 at the age of 49.  During the last decade of his life he does not appear to have exhibited anywhere.  It could be that he became too busy with work, fell ill, or abandoned his artwork altogether.  

The later seems unlikely as his known works are of extremely high quality, revealing a precision and understanding of painting that few other amateur artists of the period attained.  He evidently achieved some notoriety and recognition among other New York City based artists as he was consistently selected to exhibit at the National Academy.  Even more so, he was invited to exhibit multiple works at the Academy in individual exhibitions time and time again.  

None of his paintings are known to be in any public collections and they rarely appear at all on the market.  At the time of this writing [2009] two small oils have surfaced (one in Vermont, and another on Long Island, NY).

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