Barton Stone Hays was born in 1826 in Greenville, Ohio and lived his early life in Ohio and in Indiana. A self-taught artist, Hays is also known as the teacher of William Merritt Chase. In his later years Hays also taught women students at McCleanís Female Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio.

While living in Attica, Ohio Hays painted two panoramas with scenes from Uncle Tomís Cabin. However, after completing both panoramas, Hays indicated that he was tired of large, multi depictions and instead turned to smaller-scale genres.

Hays moved to Indianapolis in 1850 and went in to partnership with daguerreotypist William Runnion. While settled and living in Indianapolis Hays began to paint portraits and soon became that cityís leading portrait painter. In 1869 he was commissioned to execute the portrait of former Governor William Henry Harrison, who also served as president of the United States. In 1874 Hays exhibited twelve works at the Indiana Exposition. Additional examples of his work are also found in the Indianapolis Museum of Art and in the Art Association of Richmond, Indiana.

In 1882 Hays moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where he focused much of his painting on still lifes, especially fruit and flowers on small table tops. His work is identified and admired through his superb use of light to depict color and variation in his subjects. Hays died in Minneapolis in 1914.