As evidenced by a remarkable career that evolved over six decades, William Halsey was one of South Carolina's foremost twentieth century modernists, well known for his vibrant paintings, collages, and sculptures. Born and raised in Charleston, he received early instruction from Elizabeth O'Neill Verner and Edward I. R. Jennings. He spent two years at the University of South Carolina before leaving to study at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from 1935 to 1939. The recipient of a prestigious Paige Fellowship, Halsey and his wife Corrie McCallum traveled to Mexico for futher study following graduation. This experience made him a regular traveler and influenced his art in both subtle and dramatic ways over the course of his career.
Halsey built his artistic reputation in the 1940s and 1950s by exhibiting regionally and nationally. It was during these years that Halsey met New York gallery owner Bertha Schaefer, who represented him in group and one-man exhibitions from 1948 to 1953. He received promising critical recognition in Art News, the New York Times, and other publications for this work.
Halsey painted landscapes, city-scapes, still lifes, portraits, and figures in a graphic style, derived from a post-cubist tradition of exploring nature and abstraction in color, lines, and forms. His art later developed a personal, painterly expressionism, often characterized by bold coloring, abstracted forms, and varied materials and motifs.
Halsey remained an eminent and influential art teacher in the Lowcountry, beginning with his early activity at Savannah's Telfair Academy and continuing at the Gibbes from 1945 to 1953. He subsequently co-founded the Charleston Art School with McCallum and Willard Hirsch in 1953. From 1965 until his retirement in 1984, he taught at the College of Charleston and was instrumental in developing the studio art department there. The Halsey Gallery and Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art are named in his honor.
Julian Hayes, Mt. Pleasant, SC, 1964-2006
Jack Morris, William M. Halsey: Retrospective (Greenville SC: Greenville County Museum of Art, 1972) , illus pg. 55.
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