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Halsey & Cooper

In everything Southern, there is a story. In 2006, we published a small catalogue that told the story of a unique friendship between two Southern men—men whose lives intersected early on and went on to influence each other and a piece of the panorama that is Southern art. I am honored to know Tom Cooper, the collector, and grateful to have known William Halsey, widely regarded as one of the South’s most influential modern artists. But I wonder: was it Tom’s relationship with William, or, perhaps, William’s relationship with Tom that made the difference? In the end, however, I am not the one to answer the question. If I am right though, Tom surely spoke for them both in our publication—and there is the story.

Tom is a born collector who in youthful response to that instinct found a man—and a body of work—who delineated for him something which needed explication. In Halsey’s multi-faceted oeuvre, Tom found response to that timeless question: “What makes me see things the way I do?” The other part of the equation: when—first as a young man and then as one more seasoned—did William see in Tom an eye that might help future appreciators define him and his vision? Who but William could answer that, and he is beyond telling tales.

Tom Cooper and I first met when he opened the door at my office-come-gallery in Spartanburg in the early 1990s. He was, right away, an exception. First, because not many folks strode through that door, and, more importantly, because he looked—really looked—and he saw. He studied, he discussed, and—I knew then—understood. I put him on my mailing list, but don’t think we had further contact until Jane and I moved to Charleston, a half dozen years later.

We opened the Church Street gallery and persevered long enough that some of those who had long called Charleston home began to open this door. Tom became our friend and, in time, invited us to get to know his collection, which we ultimately purchased. It was with admiration for William Halsey and an eye influenced by the artist that he made studied additions to the first work he purchased as a pre-teen. Simply put, no one knew the painter and sculptor better, and no one has so successfully collected his work.

Stories are meant to be told, and Tom Cooper allowed us the telling of his. In doing so—in sharing his very personal choices from the works that filled William Halsey’s studios, in recounting his countless Saturday visits to that studio—Tom shared the artist himself.

William Melton Halsey (1915-1999)
Old Man (1972)
Oil on masonite
48 x 48 inches
Signature Details: Lower right
Owner: The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina
1451 River Road · Yemassee, SC 29945 · 843.412.8738
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