Painter Hayley Lever was born outside Adelaide in South Australia in 1876 and studied in Australia, Paris, and London. He is best known as a Post-Impressionist painter of marine scenes..

In 1899 Lever settled in St. Ives on the Cornish coast of England where he began to paint impressionistic seacoast paintings. While traveling on the Continent, Lever encountered the Post-Impressionist paintings of Vincent van Gogh. The discovery resulted in a series of paintings inspired by van Gogh’s work that Lever titled, “Van Gogh’s Hospital, Holland.” Lever traveled and painted throughout France, in places such as Concarneau, Dieppe, and Honfleur. In 1904 he exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy, a scene from St. Ives. Lever’s work was shown throughout England, as well as in Italy and France.

Lever emigrated to the United States in 1911 at the suggestion of American artist Ernest Lawson, whom he met in France. He first settled in Caldwell, New Jersey. Lever’s St. Ives pictures were very favorably received by the American critics; but after 1912 Lever began to paint street and waterfront scenes of Manhattan. From 1919 to 1931 he taught at the Art Students League in New York City. During the Depression he relocated to Mt. Vernon, New York and became Director of the Studio Art Club there. He had a summer studio in Gloucester, Massachusetts on Cape Ann, where he found a picturesque equivalent to the fishing and harbor scenes of St. Ives. Lever also painted on Nantucket Island, in Rockport, and Marblehead, MA; in Vermont; in Manasquan, NJ; Woodstock, NY; and on Monhegan Island, Maine.

Lever’s work was exhibited widely across the U.S. and abroad, winning many prizes and awards. For over two decades his paintings were shown at the Macbeth Gallery in New York. He was a member of the National Academy of Design; the American Painters and Engravers; the National Arts Club; the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts; the Royal British Artists and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, London; the Royal West of England Academy; the Contemporary Group; and the Woodstock Art Association. In 1924, he was commissioned to paint a portrait of the presidential yacht, “Mayflower,” for President Coolidge. Lever’s work is held in collections throughout the United States and Australia.

In the summer of 1927, Lever returned to St. Ives during a trip to France, also visiting Paris, Normandy and Brittany. In 1940 Lever traveled to Nova Scotia and Grand Manan Island, Canada. As his career progressed, his palette grew bolder and more vivid, and his style more expressionistic. He continued to paint marine subjects, but later turned to still lifes, eventually learning to paint left-handed when he developed arthritis. Lever spent his last four years in a nursing home. He died in 1958.


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