Neil Welliver, American (1929 - 2005)

Neil Welliver

The wilderness is Neil Welliver’s subject--the source of inspiration for his paintings, drawings, and prints. His work encompasses a unity within the dense texture of the natural world, suggesting the tame (or tamable) within the wilderness as well as the wildness within a setting of serenity. One senses that the artist finds his own exploration of the land not only to be a way to make contact with nature’s grandeur, but also a way to embrace it on his own terms , to locate a core set of elements that leads to his personal arena of understanding.

Welliver makes his home in Lincolnville, Maine. The distinctive ruggedness of this northern landscape has attracted artists for generations, and while many painters today come to the area for summer months, Welliver has been a full-time resident of Lincolnville (Maine) for more than twenty-five years. His work in the region continues a visual dialogue central to American art, part of the landscape tradition that was developed in the late nineteenth century by such artists as Albert Pinkham Ryder and Winslow Homer, then continued in the early part of this century by Marsden Hartley and John Marin. These artists tackled pointed firs surrounding deep lakes, waves crashing against jagged rocks along the coast, the drama of brilliant red sunsets and powerful gray storms, the serenity of billowing clouds hovering above rolling fields. It is within this milieu that Neil Welliver’s art must be placed. Homer’s attraction to wildlife is paralleled by Welliver’s to deer, fish and waterfowl. Hartley’s best known subjects are its mountains, and Marin’s the sea. Welliver’s are the woods and the streams.

To make his art, Welliver has found it important to observe nature closely, to work in the landscape, the wind and light and air serving as part of the inspiration, even though the forms themselves often seem generalized rather than meticulously observed. This generalization serves to set up a distancing, a suggestion of universality, rather than specificity, each clump of trees, for example, functioning as an archetype.

Welliver works from places he knows and loves, places of grandeur and intimacy, places of extraordinary natural beauty and power. He returns to the same site repeatedly. In this way the artist comes to know his subjects by immersion, by osmosis; he learns how to seek out the secrets of each place. . .

Welliver’s art is based in great part on memories formed during his long hours of looking at the landscape but also in part on the drawings made on site. These set out the scheme but lack a real sense of finish that is later developed in the prints and paintings.


Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut.

Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (Richard Davidson Collection).

The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland.

Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine.

Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York.

Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio

Canton Art Institute, Canton, Ohio

Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine.

Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire.

Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, Iowa.

William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Rockland, Maine.

Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, Michigan.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.

Madison Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York.

Museum of Art, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas.

Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts.

Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York.

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, New Jersey.

North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine.

Rahr-West Museum, Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Rose Art Museum, Waltham, Massachusetts.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California.

Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Vassar College Art Gallery, Poughkeepsie, New York.

Weatherspoon Art Gallery, Greensboro, North Carolina.

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York.

Frederick Weisman Foundation, Glenburie, Maryland.

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.


1996 Simmons Visual Arts Center, Gainsville, Georgia; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine.




1992 The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (group), New York, New York; Colby College Collection at Port Washington Library (group), Port Washington, New York.

1991 Philharmonic Center for the Arts, Naples, Florida. Japan museum tour (group-- John Arthur exhibition), four venues; The Metropolitan Museum of Art landscape exhibition from the collection tour (group), seven venues.

1990 Joseloff Gallery, University of Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut. Roanoke Museum of Fine Arts, Roanoke, Virginia (group).

1989 Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine; Montgomery Museum of the Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama; The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; Michner Center for the Arts, Doylestown, Pennsylvania; The Art Museum, Florida International University, Miami, Florida (group); Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona (group).

1988 Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine (group).

1987 University of Missouri Art Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri; William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum, Rockport, Maine; Museum of Art, Bates College, Lewiston, Maine; The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, New York (group).

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