Born on 31 May 1869 in London, Walter Bayes came from an artistic family (fig.1). His father was Alfred Walter Bayes (1832–1909), a painter and etcher who exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and who is best remembered for his illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s Stories for the Household, published in 1866 and engraved by the Dalziel brothers. Alfred Bayes married Emily Ann Fielden and together they had four children, of whom Walter was the second. Only the elder sister Emmeline did not take up an artistic career. Walter’s younger brother was the sculptor Gilbert Bayes (1872–1953) and his sister Jessie (1877–1970) became a painter of miniatures and a designer in the Arts and Crafts style.
Despite the obvious talent inherent within the Bayes family, Alfred Bayes seems to have been reluctant for any of his offspring to take up the financially precarious life of an artist.1 Following a rigorous education at the Quaker School in Saffron Walden and University College School, his son began a career in a solicitor’s office. He disliked the work, however, and in 1886 began to attend evening classes in art at the City and Guilds of London Institute in Finsbury, resolving finally to dedicate his life to painting. He continued his studies at the Westminster School of Art under Professor Fred Brown, and in 1894 he also studied for a short time at the Académie Julian in Paris, a teaching atelier particularly popular with British students. Although his artistic education was somewhat spasmodic, he attained a sufficiently high standard of work to exhibit a French landscape at the Royal Academy by 1890, and in 1892 his work was accepted at the New English Art Club.
Bayes was always interested in the intellectual aspects of painting and the 1890s also saw the launch of his career as an art critic and writer, contributing a regular art column for Outlook. Later he also wrote for Saturday Review, Weekend Review and from 1906 he replaced Roger Fry as the art critic of the Athenæum. Furthermore he supplemented his income by teaching, initially at his former art school, The City and Guilds of London Institute, and later at Bolt Court School of Arts and Crafts and Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. In 1904 he married the model Katherine (Kitty) Telfer and she appears in many of his paintings, for example, The Lemon c.1910–12 (Sheffield City Art Galleries).2