Hayman was, according to Horace Walpole, a Devonian. Brian Allen notes that a John Hayman, presumably the artist’s father, was married at Ottery St Mary in the diocese of Exeter in 1700. As a young man, Francis Hayman was employed to paint scenery by the manager of Drury Lane Theatre, Charles Fleetwood. He used the skills acquired there to paint a series of large canvases between 1741 and about 1761 for Jonathan Tyers, to be used in the supper boxes and pavilions in Vauxhall Gardens. Hayman started painting his theatrical pictures in the early 1740s, at about the same time that he was making illustrations for Sir Thomas Hanmer’s edition of Shakespeare. Although his standing as an artist was later eclipsed by Hogarth, Hayman was highly thought of in his own day. He was eager to promote the founding of an institution that would provide academic training for young artists, along the line of academies on the Continent. He was appointed President of the Society of Artists, was a friend of Hogarth and Garrick and subsequently became a Founder Member of the Royal Academy in 1769 and Librarian in 1771.