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You know how you go looking at one artist and then you end up finding another? Well, I was looking in “my neck of the woods” (New England) and came across NEIL WELLIVER (1929-2005). He studied with Joseph Albers (color!) and later taught painting at Cooper Union and Yale. Unfortunately, the “Silver Fox” (nickname!) got into trouble with sexual harassment there (ugh!)...but let’s put that aside for now.

Once “The SF” moved to Maine, he became known for his landscapes. And yikes, he goes into them Maine woods...deep! Like to the parts where you get lost forever and all the trees are broken into bits and you get eaten by bears and wolves. He’d take a 70lb backpack with him and only 8 tubes of paint and do studies in 3 increments at 9 hours each. Back at his studio, he’d turn some of them into 8 ft x 10 ft paintings where he’d start in the upper left hand corner and slowly work his way to the bottom right. You can see he was quite a meticulous guy.

He loved painting outdoors but he said, “Painting outside in winter is not a macho thing to do. It's more difficult than that. To paint outside in the winter is painful. It hurts your hands, it hurts your feet, it hurts your ears. Painting is difficult. The paint is rigid, it's stiff, it doesn't move easily. But sometimes there are things you want and that's the only way you get them.”

He died of pneumonia (hmmmm) but before then, he had his fair share of tragedy, too. Wiki: “In 1975, he lost his home, and studio, and all the art therein to a fire. In 1976, a daughter died, followed soon thereafter by the death of his second wife. In 1991, one son was killed, and a second son died.”

Is he my most favorite artist ever? Well, no. Does he deserve his own thread with capital letters? Probably not. But I DO like the look of all “the sticks” (in the works below) which show a commitment to a certain level of obsessiveness that I can appreciate. Although these are more realistic paintings than not, they also look abstracted. Designed. Maybe its because of the colors, which he says he WASN’T interested in getting exact. Instead, he wanted to find colors that look like they’re “surrounded by air.” Not sure what he meant by that but I DO like his sense of color, and their crispness. And I like the captured solitude.

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These paintings remind me of Peter Doig's work.the sense of solititude and untouched places.I really like them.
beautiful works, I did not know these works nor the artist, thanks for both and for your thoughts, explanations on the works. it looks like a mix of realism and cartoon.
I don't know if this is correct but it is one of the things that strikes me.
it looks like cel-shading (at the best moment of this technique g) of some nicer movies or games they did at times.

what a story...
Thanks for sharing. I quite like those last 3. The one with the sun spots on the rocks is spectacular.
The second and third look like photos that have been subject to editing.
It might look like that, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t use photography. While outside, he makes quick overall color sketches, or smaller detail color sketches to use as a general guide when he gets back into the studio. But he also makes large charcoal drawings onsite which he‘ll later staple to the canvas and then...he uses a pouncing wheel as a tracer. On some of his painted sketches, you can still see pencil lines which reminds me of paint-by-number kits...

He explains that the paper “has been perforated with a little pouncing wheel so it is filled with tiny holes along the lines of the drawing. When it is stapled there, that puts it in position, so it is registered more or less with the canvas. That drawing is basically to work out problems of scale and size. It has very little to do with description. The description takes place when I’m painting.“
Thanks Olive, such an interesting guy.
I could quite happily spend my time in any of those scenes. I particularly like the vibrant blue lake! Nevertheless, they're all wonderful examples of patience and skill, not to mention colour sense!
Just had a look at Melanie Daniel's work.I can see in some of them a hint of what I see in Doig's work, thanks for the link Arty
One of my closest friends and long-time studio partner studied at the University of Pennsylvania where he met Neil Welliver. A good number of my college professors were graduates of Yale where they also met Welliver. As a result, I've known of his work for years. Glad to see others discover his paintings. From my various teachers and my studio partner, I was exposed to a number of anecdotes concerning him. He was a realist... or figurative artist from early on and struggled against the Albers dominated abstract painting of Yale. It seems he was also picked on for being a bit on the short side. This continued when he moved to the University of Pennsylvania. When he eventually was named the Chairman of the Graduate School of Fine Art he became somewhat vindictive, making life hell for those who had picked on him over the years and marginalized him as a figurative painter. He pressured a number of faculty out of UPenn. I've never heard of the sexual harassment allegations concerning him, but I'm not surprised. Affairs between faculty and students were common until recently. A good number of my professors were married to former students.

There is something matter-of-fact about Welliver's paintings... and yet there is also something that suggests an intense emotional response. This is as true of his landscape paintings as it is of his many nudes:





His paintings all remind me of the matter-of-fact nature of the paintings of Fairfield Porter and Philip Pearlstein.
SLG: Yeah, I ignored his nudes because I wasn’t interested in them. But ironically, Fairfield Porter was the artist I started looking at that led me to Maine artist Lois Dodd (eh) and then to Welliver. We sometimes had guest teacher/lecturers at Syracuse and I think Pearlstein was one of them that I remember. It’s weird that I have this vague memory of standing close to him as he explained his work but it might have been Jerome Witkin but maybe it was neither one and I hallucinated it all.

ARTY: And yes, to Melanie Daniel, especially to the nature stuff. I like that it’s representational but incorporates saturated colors. And that her work is both loose and dreamy in parts, but exacting and graphic in other parts. It keeps it all interesting. I think I’d be happy to be an artist that could mix a lot of MD into a little NW and get to where I want to get to as a painter.

But I can’t. So I won’t.
C’est la vie.

TO ALL COMMENTERS: Thanks for your words. I’m sure Neil, looking down from the great wood stick pile in the sky, would be happy. (Or not. What do I know about what he would feel?!)

And lastly, I got this book the other day which has been on my list for awhile now. It’s a little pricey, but...recommend! And because he was mentioned, this book has a reproduction of a Peter Doig painting on the right page and a corresponding poem by Derek Walcott on the left. I think I’ll save it for a sort of...dreamy and read.


Oh I'd love to get a copy of that.Beautiful paintings, I also love his light.
the figures are fantastic, they are beautiful works, figures and landscape seem to emerge, both stand out, both are protagonists, beautiful, well done. strong, I like it.both with these with figures and with the previous works I would not know how to choose
Yeah, I ignored his nudes because I wasn’t interested in them. But ironically, Fairfield Porter was the artist I started looking at that led me to Maine artist Lois Dodd (eh) and then to Welliver. We sometimes had guest teacher/lecturers at Syracuse and I think Pearlstein was one of them that I remember. It’s weird that I have this vague memory of standing close to him as he explained his work but it might have been Jerome Witkin but maybe it was neither one and I hallucinated it all.

I had a friend from art school... who was a year ahead of me... enroll in either Pratt or Brooklyn College... I forget which, and Pearlstein had taught at both. By the time my friend was enrolled, Pearlstein was retired but still used in the school catalog as a selling point. I was thinking of enrolling there myself because of the presence of Pearlstein... being frustrated with the dominance of faculty who were abstract painters. My friend persuaded me to think again. Pearlstein only made a couple of appearances a year... and only for the 2nd year Masters students.

I briefly glanced at Pearlstein's bio on Wiki and found that he is 3 months shy of 97 years old.

I certainly would have been interested in studying with Jerome Witkin... who at the time... and even now... was/is largely unknown outside of certain small circles. I stumbled on his work in a thin book in the art school library.
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I just went and googled both artists (PP and JW) and so now I’m kinda thinking it was Witkin I was watching. And that’s only because he taught there for 46 years, including the time I was there. It just seems more likely it was Witkin although really, I can’t remember anymore.

I think I actually like Witkin’s work more. I thought to myself as I was looking that “there’s a little cornball in there.” That’s a prejudice I normally have with narrative work so it was funny to see (on Wiki) that he refers to HIMSELF as a “cornball humanist.” That aside, the word “virtuoso” also swirled around in mind. He knows what he’s doing, for sure. Although I think I read he was a nice and humble guy, I still imagine that he painted to “show off” his skills...meaning, they were good examples of HOW.TO.PAINT. He knows anatomy, and how to draw, and gets light and color correct, and is clever with composition, and builds up “the drama” to emotionally engage the viewer. I guess I’m saying that he knows how to do all the “proper” things we’re “supposed to” learn as painters.

And yes, I bet it must have been great having him as a teacher.

Which I didn’t.

I think.:unsure:
Thanks Olive, I had never heard of this painter, very interesting works.
This forum does a good job broadening my art horizon.