William Melton Halsey was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1915, the third son of Ashley and Eleanor Loeb Halsey. He showed artistic promise at an early age, and began studying with Charleston artist Elizabeth O'Neill Verner at the age of 13. Verner was one of the artists responsible for the Charleston Renaissance, a period of artistic renewal in Charleston during the years 1915-1940. After graduating from High School he went on to attend the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC, from 1932-34. Halsey found little challenge at the University and quickly finished all of the art classes offered at the USC in just two years. The most notable event to take place during this time was the meeting of fellow art student Corrie Parker McCallum, who was from Sumter, SC. Halsey later said that she was the only artist around with any talent and that she was the only person to whom he could talk. The two would later marry.
In the Fall of 1935, Halsey enrolled at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. He was an assistant instructor of drawing and painting and instructor of fresco while a student there. By 1937, he was joined at the school by fellow USC student and friend, Corrie McCallum. In 1939, Halsey graduated from the school and had won the James William Page Traveling Fellowship. The fellowship was to provide study abroad, but in 1939 Europe was a volatile environment with the outbreak of World War II. Halsey's mother was also Jewish making European travels at the time even more dangerous. The fellowship was rescheduled for studies in Mexico, a pivotal change in the artists' future career. In June of 1939, he married fellow artist Corrie McCallum, and by the summer of that year, the couple began two years of travel and study in Mexico. Halsey also had his first solo exhibition at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA, and was one of a few artists from South Carolina to have work displayed at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City.
The early period in Mexico had a major influence on the work of both artists. Halsey had taken an interest in murals while at the Boston Museum School and his time in Mexico reinforced that interest. He began studying the works of Diego Rivera and other Mexican mural artists. On Jan. 1, 1940, the couple's first child was born in Mexico City and was named Eleanor Paige Halsey in honor of William's mother and the fellowship which had brought them to Mexico. While still in Mexico, Halsey's first professional solo exhibition in South Carolina took place at the Gibbes Art Gallery (Gibbes Museum of Art today) in Charleston, SC, in 1940. This exhibition was traveled to the Norfolk Museum of Art and the Lynchburg Art Gallery in VA. The colors, sights, sounds and texture of Mexico led Halsey into a more independent exploration of expressive distortion in his work. During the 18 months in Mexico, he completed over 75 paintings.
In the Spring of 1941, the couple, plus one, returned to Charleston and began teaching art classes out of their studio/home on the corner of State and Chalmers Streets. By Sept. of 1942, Halsey had accepted a position as Director of the School of Art, Telfair Academy and as an art instructor at the Pape School in Savannah, GA. By November of that year, Halsey had a solo exhibition at the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (now Telfair Museum of Art). World War II had come to the United States in Dec. of 1942 and by 1943, Halsey had to take a job as a timekeeper at the Southeastern Shipyard in Savannah. For the first time creative activity almost came to a stop - almost. On May 26, 1944, David Ashley Halsey was born.
In 1945, Halsey and McCallum, plus two, once again returned to Charleston. This time they were home to Charleston to stay, although they would both travel extensively throughout the world. Though living, painting, and teaching in Charleston, Halsey maintained an active exhibition schedule nationally. He was represented by Bertha Shaefer Gallery in New York City from the late 1940's to the late 1950's, and had one man exhibits there, and at the Berkshire Museum of art, the Norfolk Museum of Art, Mint Museum of Art, Georgia Museum of Art, and again at the Gibbes Art Gallery, as well as having work in group exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum, the Whitney Museum, and the Chicago Art Institute. Before the decade of the 1940's was over, on Feb. 21, 1949, the couple's third child, Louise McCallum Halsey was born.
Halsey and his wife continued to live and work in Charleston often augmenting their finances by teaching art at their studio and at the Gibbes Art Gallery. In 1953, Halsey led a teacher walk-out at the Gibbes over differences in teaching policy. They soon started the Charleston School of Art with fellow artist Williard Hirsch, a local sculptor. The three maintained the school cooperatively until 1965. Throughout their careers, Halsey and McCallum have taught art in their studios, and at the Boston Museum School, Newberry College, the Telfair Academy School, the Gibbes Art Gallery School, their own Charleston School of Art and finally at the College of Charleston. Halsey established the studio art program at the College of Charleston and served as assistant professor and artist-in-residence at the College for nearly twenty years. When he retired in 1984, the art gallery at the College was named the William Halsey Gallery. In 1995, the College of Charleston honored Halsey with an Honorary Degree and in 1999 he was awarded South Carolina's highest award in the arts, the Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award for Lifetime Achievement. For further information on Halsey's education and exhibits click here.
William Melton Halsey died on Feb. 14, 1999 at the age of 84, after over seventy years of producing art on a daily basis. He was known to say that creating art was his reason for getting up every day.
David Halsey 843-813-7542 firstname.lastname@example.org
Paige Halsey Slade 904-223-8418 PSlade@alumnae.brynmawr.edu
Louise McCallum Halsey 501-650-5090 email@example.com or at www.louisehalsey.com
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