Neil Welliver was born in 1929 in Millville, Pennsylvania. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Philadelphia Museum College of Art in 1953 and a Master of Fine Arts degree at Yale University in 1955.
Neil Welliver Career
Welliver first teaching position was a studio instructor at Cooper Union in New York City. He later taught for ten years at Yale. His final and long-lasting academic appointment was at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he taught from 1966 to 1989.
Welliver felt a strong connection to the places he depicted in his paintings. Concerned with land use and self-sufficiency, he sought to be a responsible steward to the more than 1600 acres that he eventually acquired. In 1979 Welliver purchased a farmhouse in Lincolnville, Maine and for many years commuted from there to teach in Philadelphia. But, his art focused on the woods of Maine, and that is where he spent most of this time.
“For me,” he said,
“These places are often nondescript corners, small things, not the big 19th-century vistas of the Hudson River School. I can’t put their meaning in words, but I try to do it in paint.”
Welliver was not concerned about the distinction between realism and abstraction because he saw himself as an artist who could bridge the gap between these styles.
Though he did not like associations with specific schools of art, he found inspiration in artists like Piet Mondrian and Joseph Albers; Mondrian, for his efforts to express the essential beauty of the real world “with utmost awareness,” and Albers, for his teachings about perception, color optics, and color interactions.
Neil Welliver is well known for his contributions to contemporary landscape painting as well as his reverence for his subject matter—he lived and breathed the natural beauty he depicted.
“If you give yourself to a place, you begin to feel its power.”
Neil Welliver’s land stewardship continued upon his death of a heart attack in April, 2005, with his bequest of 700 acres to Maine’s Coastal Mountains Land Trust.