Art historian, educator, critic, author, and artist Whitney Halstead was born in 1926. After receiving a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Halstead worked as an assistant in the Field Museum's anthropology department. He also taught art history at several Chicago-area universities, including the Art Institute, where he developed a series of courses on primitive art. Some historians have indicated that these courses were an important influence on the work of several artists of the "Chicago School" who studied with Halstead, including Roger Brown, Phil Hanson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, and Karl Wirsum, among others. Halstead also played a prominent role in the 1965 Art Institute's faculty strike that resulted in better working conditions for the instructors, and by 1967, he had become Chairman of the Division of Fine Arts. In 1970, he assumed the position of Graduate Advisor.
Halstead wrote critical reviews for Artforum, the Chicago Daily News, and numerous articles and essays promoting local and primitive art, including the work of Jim Nutt and naïve artist Joseph E. Yoakum. He also curated several exhibitions, including Made In Chicago and Ulu/Inua: Form and Fantasy in Eskimo Art. Halstead's own art work, exhibitied primarily during the 1950s and early 1960s, was in a variety of media and reflected his interest in Dadaism and Surrealism.
Whitney Halstead died in 1979.