Hardy was a painter and etcher of animals, portraits, genre and sporting subjects. He was born in Chichester, on 25th November 1842, son of the artist James Hardy, Snr (1801-79) and younger brother of James Hardy Jnr (1832-89). Hardy left home at the age of 17, and attempted to earn a living by painting animal pictures. He did this successfully and, after a short time with the 7th Somerset Volunteers, he borrowed money from his brother and travelled to Paris. In 1864 he entered the Beaux Arts to study under the battle artist, Pielse.
Hardy returned to England in 1868 and found he was in great demand. He was often invited to country estates to paint portraits, sporting pictures and animal studies. Hardy continued to enjoy commissions for portraits, animal studies and hunting scenes, but he decided to concentrate on painting genre subjects. In addition, he provided illustrations for magazines such as the Illustrated London News, and The Graphic, as well as producing etchings of his work.
In 1870 Hardy and his family moved to St John's Wood, London - an area then popular with artists. During this period his career flourished and he was elected a member of a number of societies including The Royal Society of Painters and Etchers, The Royal Institute of Oil Painters and The Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
In 1909 Hardy moved to West Sussex and at the age of 83 he painted the first in a series of eight panels depicting biblical scenes for the chancel of Clymping Church, to mark its 700th anniversary in 1925. At the time, these panels caused considerable controversy as they depicted Christ walking on the Sussex Downs and local farmland, amidst modern figures, said to be residents from nearby villages.
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