Portrait of Dr. Lewis D. Lyons

Barton Stone Hays (American, 1826-1914)

Currently on View in K211
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  • The seated half-length figure against a plain background is a common format for early American portraits.
  • Hays included details that show the social and professional refinement of his subject. Dr. Lyons's elegant hands are emphasized by contrasting his skin tones against his dark clothing. The book on his lap is a symbol of higher learning and his own accomplishments.
  • Hays was a self-taught painter when he moved to northern Indiana around 1850. He painted Dr. Lyons during this very early part of his career, before moving to Indianapolis in 1858.

Barton Hays was raised in a religious home in Ohio that had only one book containing pictures. Hays drew on barn walls with charcoal and saw his first oil painting at age twenty. He moved to northern Indiana, where after painting portraits of family and friends, he began accepting portrait commissions to earn a living. In 1858, Hays moved to Indianapolis, where he became a partner in a photography firm. He tinted photographs and painted over enlarged prints. Hays was one of the first art teachers in Indianapolis. Among his students were John Washington Love and William Merritt Chase. Much of his renown came from his ability to convince Chase’s father to allow his son to continue his studies in New York City. Hays was successful in receiving the commission to paint governor William Harrison’s portrait. He was one of the original members of the Art Association of Indianapolis, the founders of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Hay’s likeness of Dr. Lyons is typical of early American portraits. The seated half-length figure is placed against a plain background. His hands and face are emphasized by contrasting the skin tones and the white shirt against the dark setting. Facial features are carefully rendered in firm brushstrokes. The sitter holds a book on his lap as a symbol of higher learning and his own accomplishments.


Mary Burnet. Art and Artists of Indiana, Roswell, GA: Whippoorwill Publications, 1985. ISBN-13: 978-1443773805

Purchased by Roger Gould Wolcott at an auction in 1951 where the contents of the Lyon's home were sold in Attica, Indiana. {1}; given to the John Herron Art Institue, Indianapolis, Indiana, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, in 1951.

{1} Recods state that it was in the collection of Minnie Parker of Attica.

Object Information

Barton Stone Hays (American, 1826-1914)
creation date
about 1855
oil on canvas
36-1/4 x 28-1/4 in. (canvas)
40-1/2 x 32-3/8 x 2-3/4 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
Gift of Roger Gould Wolcott
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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