Edward Hayes spent his youth in Dublin, Ireland, and was a student in the Dublin Society's Schools. From the very first he wanted to be a marine painter, and living close to the quays and docks helped him in this endeavor.
In 1842 he exhibited at the RHA, and in 1855 exhibited at the Royal Academy where he was a regular contributor for forty-nine years. He exhibited also with the Society of British Artists and with The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, of which he became an Associate in 1860 and a Member in 1863.
He continued to contribute to the RHA and was elected an Associate in 1853 and a member in 1871.