Heywood Hardy was born in November 1842, in the city of Chichester, England. Born into a family of artists, he was the youngest of 10 children. His father, James Hardy, was a distinguished and respected artist. His sisters Ava, his brothers James Hardy Jr., David, his cousins Frederick Daniel Hardy, and George Hardy, also became artists.
When he was 22 years old, his earliest two paintings were accepted to the exhibition at The Royal Academy. In the same year, Hardy was appointed as an Ensign in the Volunteer Corps. A voluntary organization focused on home defense against foreign invasion.
Soon, Hardy made enough money to enroll at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where was primarily under the teachings of Isidore Pils. He studied extensively copying paintings at the Louvre Museum. During his time in Paris, Hardy lived a rather bohemian life.
In 1873, the British daily paper The Times highly praised one of Hardy’s paintings exhibited at The Royal Academy. The picture depicted fighting lions. Hardy had a keen interest in the animal, representing it several times, such as in his Teasing the Lion Cubs. This would boost his reputation to even higher standards.
In 1873, Hardy made a trip to Egypt, where he painted the wildlife. In London, he would study the comparative anatomy between birds and other animals, under Professor Alfred Henri Garrod, who was the Head of the Scientific Department of the London Zoo. Hardy also executed illustrations for Professor Garrod’s research on horse gait, which was the in-depth study of the natural movement of a horse. To further study lions, Hardy acquired a deceased lioness from the Zoo. He later had it mounted by James Rowland Ward, a highly respected and skilled taxidermist.
Hardy was also very fond of horses and horseback riding; his paintings on these subjects would become his most celebrated works, especially those of horseback riding by the seashore. Pleasant Company is one example of several of his oeuvre.
Hardy was a founding member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, as well as an associate of the Royal Watercolour Society and member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.