William F. Halsall (1841-1919)

William F. Halsall (1841-1919)

Born in Kirkdale, England, in 1841, William Formby Halsall worked as a sailor for several years during his youth before settling in Boston, Massachusetts. There, around 1860, he took lessons from painter William E. Norton, before enlisting in the United States Navy during the Civil War.  After two years’ service, Halsall returned to his artistic pursuits, attending the Lowell Institute from 1862-1870, and eventually concentrated on marine painting.  He was a member of the Boston Art Club, exhibiting there almost annually between 1879 and 1906, and also exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago.  Examples of Halsall’s work can be found in the Mariners Museum in Newport News, Virginia, the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, and the United States Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis.

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Halsall’s familiarity with the sea gave him a unique perspective when capturing the maritime activity he so loved to paint. In Living New England Artists, published in 1888, author Frank T. Robinson writes:

“Halsall’s work evidences the characteristics of the sailor, who sees things in a big way; now we are studying the gigantic ices of Niagara Falls, now a frigid scene from the top of Mount Washington, again we are warmed with the hot glow of a harbor sunset, or trail slowly along in some becalmed schooner or yacht…In all his work the artist, painter, and the sailor are combined with splendid force, and in the full magnificence of manliness and clearness of perception…We have not among us a more whole-souled artist or one more able to give us the stories of the sea or shore, the anatomy of a ship or wave, than our subject.” [1]

References: Falk, Who Was Who in American Art, 1999; Vose Galleries’ archives; Robinson, Living New England Artists, 1888.

[1] Living New England Artists, Frank T. Robinson, 1888, p. 93.

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