Claude Hayes was the son of a marine painter, born in Dublin and grew up to be a landscape and portrait painter. From 1867-1868, after Hayes had run away from home, he served the Golden Fleece, which was one of the transports used in the Abyssinian Expedition.
Claude later returned to England where he studied in the RA schools for three years. His first exhibition was held in the Royal Hibernian Academy showing twenty-one works. These works were mainly watercolour landscapes.
In 1886, Hayes was elected a member of the RI and in 1883, was elected a member of the ROI.