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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Richard Hallier

Blackbeard the Pirate by the North Carolina sculptor, Richard
Hallier, cast in bronze, reportedly about life-size (questionable).
His "castle" can be seen in the background.
On our recent cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, my wife and brother-in-law decided not to get off the ship at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. So, my sister and I, both of us history buffs, decided to imbibe a little local folklore by pursuing the legend of a pirate named Edward Teach, better known as the infamous "Blackbeard." The operative word in this tale is "legend." It's not as if Edward Teach was not a real, historic figure and notorious pirate. He was indeed, and quite legendary as well. The problem is, he seems never to have never once set foot on the island of St. Thomas; meaning by implication, of course, that he never once spent a single night in their famous "Blackbeard's Castle." In fact, his so-called castle was built by the Danes (who ruled the island at the time) in 1679 as a mere stone watchtower overlooking the sea-level Fort Christian, which guarded the Charlotte Amalie harbor. Moreover, the cylindrical stone tower was erected a full year before Blackbeard was even born. Thus we fell into a tourist trap having as its only redeeming trait the dramatic performance of a delightful Blackbeard impersonator with a (more or less) historic tale to tell, embellished by highly amusing anecdotes. It turns out, Blackbeard had far more to do with Virginia and North Carolina than St. Thomas.

Copyright, Jim Lane
And out in back of the castle, a swimming pool, where
Blackbeard presumably passed the time when not
playing "Pirates of the Caribbean."
The bronze statue of Blackbeard (top) was created several hundred years after Blackbeard terrorized the English colonists of the American east coast by a sculptor (also from North Carolina) named Richard Hallier. I didn't measure it, but the dramatic bronze personage appeared to be around ten to twelve feet tall, though the human version of Blackbeard suggested it was life-sized. If so, he was woefully inadequate for his dramatic role. History suggests that Blackbeard was, indeed of exceptional stature; but though he may have been BIG, he wasn't that big. I didn't look inside Blackbeard's so-called "castle." Danish watchtowers have never been very high on my "must-see" list.

Copyright, Jim Lane
Three Queens, Richard Hallier, commemorating three powerful
women who led an 1878 slave revolt against the Danes.
Had this little sojourn ended there, I would have been somewhat incensed at the locals for perpetrating such a hoax and at myself for having fallen for it. However, just a few dozen stone steps down over the hill from this fake pirate abode was yet another such pirate abiding place, this one much more interesting, free of charge, and more in keeping with my art interest. There, in an airy, modest-size museum, was a collection of a dozen or so bronze pirate images by the earlier Blackbeard's sculptural creator, Richard Hallier (below). These were, indeed, life-size, dramatically posed, some made even more lifelike through the use of chemical patinas designed to add a touch of color to their otherwise polished bronze tones. Just about every pirate of the Caribbean short of Jack Sparrow and Peter Pan's Captain Hook was portrayed in action, doing what they did best, fighting, drinking, carousing, or...well, pirating.

The real "pirates of the Caribbean" safely cast
in bronze by North Carolina sculptor, Richard Hallier.
In retrospect, I feel somewhat remiss in not recognizing immediately the name, Richard Hallier, in that the scope and quality of this internationally known sculptor ranges far beyond giant pirates and life-size attempts to bring such colorful characters to life. Although painters have long been known to try capturing frozen action poses in their works, few sculptors have tried to do the same. Hallier not only tried but succeeded as his athletic figures seen below attest. Like his pirates, they seem to have a life of their own only barely contained by the bronze metal in which they are cast.

Volley Ball Dig, Richard Hallier
Born in 1944, and from Kansas City, Kansas, originally, Hallier began his art career as a U.S. Marine Corps Illustrator during the Vietnam War. After the war, he attended Kansas City, Junior College and the Ringling School of Art & Design in Sarasota, Florida. During the 1970s, Hallier founded his own business, the Carolina Sign Company with showrooms on Hilton Head Island, at Shipyard Plantation, Palmetto Dunes Resort, and Sea Pines, South Carolina. From 1984 through 1988 Hallier began sculpting. He produced his first life-size figurative bronze. In addition, he also fabricated hundreds of contemporary abstract stone sculptures and bronze abstract figurative pieces in limited editions. He exhibited regionally and nationally, his work included in many corporate collections and museums such as NCNB corporate collections, Wachovia Bank, R.J. Reynolds, Northern Telecom, the Hickory North Carolina Museum of Art, and many others.

Olympic Headquarters, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Richard Hallier

Richard Wayne Hallier, 2006
During the 1990s, Hallier Produced over 70 life-size fig-urative bronzes. He was one of the top three artists at New York Art Expo, as well as con-tributing to the North Carolina Arts Journal cover feature on Martin Luther King, Jr. Memor-ial Commission. He also pro-duced the World's largest figurative silver casting. Dur-ing the years 2000-2006 Hallier worked on commis-sions for private investors and monuments including the pir-ate figures my sister and I encountered on St. Thomas. Richard Wayne Hallier spent the last three years of his life sailing the Caribbean with his wife. He died from pulmonary fibrosis on April 17th, 2010, in Punta Gorda, Florida, at the age of 65.

Girl with Shell, Richard Hallier

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