Neil Welliver Study for Thaw at Pond Pass 24"x 24" 1989
Neil Welliver The Birches 60"x60" 1977
Neil Welliver Unyarded Deer oil on canvas 96"x 96" 1981
Neil Welliver Study for Blue Ducktrap
Neil Welliver Thawed Ledge oil on canvas 60"× 60" 1998
Neil Welliver Trees Reflected on Ice 57.2 x 60.5 cm oil 2002
Neil Welliver (1929-2005) painted his very large landscape paintings from small plein air studies completed near his home in Maine. He is often called the "dean of American landscape painting", but honestly, I can't figure out what that means. Instead I'll try to just give my own honest reaction to his work.
Welliver's paintings are often composed with striking simplicity, but with a wealth of textured detail. His work has such an immediate appeal, showing pristine landscapes without the intrusion of humans, studded through and through with the intensely pure quality of Maine sunlight.
His paintings have been described as a fusion of "abstract expressionism and pure, straightforward realism", but I'm not sure I agree. I don't see the unbounded emotionalism of abstract expressionism here; instead I sense a careful planning and an emotionally remote quality. Beautiful like well-crafted diamonds.
Neil Welliver's personal life has much personal tragedy, which makes me wonder if he retreated to these distant spaces in Maine as a way to cope.
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.