I consider myself an animal part of nature, not a Homo sapien. Like the deer, the bear and the other small whatever else are out there, all the other small things and I feel totally at home there, completely and absolutely at home in the woods.”
The backpack that Neil Welliver took with him, when he went to paint Maine landscapes, weighed seventy pounds. He carried an easel, tubes of eight colors of paint, brushes, a can of turpentine, rags, water jugs, toilet tissue and binoculars.
His goal was to find, and paint, what he called, “places of power.” Welliver’s landscapes have a sense of, not just power, but intimacy. His work conveys the feeling of being isolated, alone in a natural setting, with only the sounds of water, wind and wildlife in the air.
“I consider myself an animal part of nature,” he told an interviewer, “not a Homo sapien. Like the deer, the bear and the other small whatever else are out there, all the other small things and I feel totally at home there, completely and absolutely at home in the woods.”
As Tough and Rugged as His Paintings
Not just a macho man who roughed it out in the wild, Welliver received his MFA from Yale, where he studied with Josef Albers, and taught at Yale for ten years. He went on to become the chairman of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Fine Art. Painters Alex Katz and Lois Dodd convinced him to move to Maine. He bought a 106-acre farm, which he moved to permanently around 1970. Until his retirement in 1989, he commuted from his home Maine to his job in Pennsylvania.
His son, Titus Welliver, an actor who plays Harry Bosch in the TV series, Bosch, says that his father began to give him formal art training when he was twelve, and was a real taskmaster. Titus said that he became more interested in acting than painting, and it was his father who bought him a bus ticket to New York and encouraged him to make a career of acting. Titus said that he began to paint again during a low point in his career and his father encouraged that, as well.
The influence of his father can be seen in his stark landscapes, like Big Snow.
“One of my paintings is with the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan.” he said “I’m extremely touched by that because my father’s work was collected and hung in many embassies over the years.” Titus also says that he is grateful that his father, who died in 2005, was able to see him succeed as an actor.
Small Studies, Large Landscapes
Neil Welliver’s method of painting produced a legacy of large and small works, all of magnificent quality.
He would make small studies of part of a scene, like Study for Stream with Falls, sometimes doing two or three views of the same landscape. He would then go into his studio and staple a sheet of paper onto a large canvas. Then, using the small studies as a guide, he would do a charcoal outline drawing on the paper. When he was satisfied with the composition, he would take a tracing wheel, with serrated teeth, and go over the charcoal lines, creating clean guide marks on the canvas. He would always work from the top left corner of the canvas, down and across to the bottom.
Welliver’s wet-on-wet technique, which can be seen in paintings like Across St. John’s, gave him the ability to paint, so powerfully, the northern light and landscape that he loved.
Neil Welliver Paintings For Sale at the Surovek Gallery
Both small studies, like Study for Stream with Falls and large, complete works, like Across St. John’s are for sale at our gallery. Please contact us for more information about the work of Neil Welliver or any of the other fine artists whose works are available at the Surovek Gallery.