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 Bernardo Hay  (1864 - 1931)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom/Italy      Known for: landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Bernardo Hay (Florence 1864 - Capri 1931; some say Naples 1934) was the son of the British artist Jane Benham Hay (1829-1904), a seminal figure in the Pre-Raphaelite movement in England; and the Italian artist Francesco Saverio Altamura(1822-1897), a seminal figure in the pre-impressionist Macchiaioli movement in Italy; and an important figure in the Garibaldi movement that led to the reunification of Italy.

The Hay name derives from Jane Benham's first marriage in London in 1851 to the British artist John Hay, a marriage which produced a son one year later. The marriage failed shortly thereafter, but she apparently retained the Hay name for the rest of her life. By 1854 she was living in Florence; and in the late 1850's she became romantically involved with Altamura; then married with three children (1) and living in Florence in political exile from Naples.

The couple produced two children, Raphael and Bernardo. In 1869, Altamura resumed permanent residence in Naples at the Villa Gay on the hill of Vomero.  Hay and their children joined him in 1870. At some point, doubtless after the birth of Bernardo, the couple married. In contrast to notations that Bernardo Hay was British, he was more correctly an Italian born to a British mother. 

In the early 1880's, Hay lived briefly in Venice, Florence and Bruges. In 1883, he participated in the annual art exhibitions in Milan (showing four paintings; Field of Flowers, Summer in Posillipo, and two views of Venice); and in Rome (View of the Grand Canal, the City of Bruges, and a view of the Belgian countryside). Around 1885 he exhibited in Turin (portrait of Carmanella, Flower of Spring, and Seascape from Resina).

In the late 1880's he returned to Naples, and thereafter primarily produced views of scenes and people around the Bay of Naples. In 1889 he was living in Naples, but it is probable that he took up residence on Capri sometime thereafter.

Only oils by Bernardo Hay are known. Setting aside the few known views of Bruges and Belgium, they consist almost entirely of Venice scenes, landscapes around the Bay of Naples (predominantly Capri), and genre portraits of workaday people around the Bay of Naples. He was known as "Pito", the 'little one'.

Footnote 1: Altamura's first wife was the Greek artist Eleni Boukoura (1821-1900), now widely regarded as the first woman artist of Greece. The three children (half siblings of Bernardo Hay) were Giovanni, Sofia, and Alessandro. Altamura abandoned this family in 1859, and in 1861 Eleni returned to Greece with two of the children, Giovanni (who assumed the Greek equivalent Ioannis) and Sofia. Alessandro remained with his father. Both Ioannis and Alessandro became artists as well, with Ioannis, who died of tuberculosis at 26, now viewed as the far more important of the two.

Submitted by Neil Gaffney
Principal Sources: Wikipedia articles on Jane Benham  Hay and Altamura, Dizionario degli Artisti Italiani vivante; A Gubernato Florence 1889, and most importantly, http:/

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