(31 December 1848– 14 June 1913) was a realist painter, woodcarver and illustrator, best known for his paintings portraying scenes of everyday life in the North East of England.
He was a member of the Royal Society of British Artists, and had more than fifty of his paintings displayed at the Royal Academy between 1879 and 1904. He became president of the Bewick Club and was Vice-President of the South Shields Art Club
Today, Hedley's paintings are appreciated for the record they provide of everyday life in Tyneside in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Even at the time of Hedley's death in June 1913, the Newcastle Daily Chronicle recognised the value of his work, arguing that "What Burns did for the peasantry of Scotland with his pen, Ralph Hedley with his brush and palette had done for the Northumberland miner and labouring man.".
A number of Hedley's works, including Cat in a Cottage Window, Last in Market and 'Going Home' are known throughout the world, many of them reproduced as popular prints. In March 2004, The Tournament, depicting a group of boys having a piggy-back fight, sold for £44,000 - a record for a Hedley painting at auction.
Hedley is the amongst the most recent Newcastle figures to be honoured by the city's Commemorative Plaque Scheme. The plaque was unveiled by the Lord Mayor, Councillor George Douglas, on Monday 29 November 2004, at 19 Belle Grove Terrace in Spital Tongues, where Hedley lived from 1885 until his death in 1913. The property now forms part of the Belle Grove public house. Guests attending the unveiling included relatives of Hedley, and Julie Milne, the curator of the Laing Art Gallery. The Laing holds one of the largest bodies of Hedley's work, including 41 oil paintings and three watercolours, and a major exhibition devoted to Hedley in 1990. A book on Hedley's life and times was published in association with that exhibition.
As part of the Festival of the North East, 2013, an exhibition of his work held in local public collections was shown at the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, and a small group of works from private and public collections was shown at the Hartlepool Art Gallery.
To mark the centenary of his death, Ralph Hedley was honoured by a choral evensong held at The Catherdral Church of St Nicholas on 14 June 2013, conducted by the Dean, the Very Revd Christopher Dalliston, and with the Newcastle Cathedral Choir.