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Well-known Maine landscape artist Neil Welliver to present at UMFK commencement and receive honorary degree

April 16, 2004


Prominent Maine landscape painter Neil Welliver will present a video of his work and speak interactively with members of the University of Maine at Fort Kent class of 2004, at the institutions 122nd commencement exercises on Saturday, May 8, at 1:00 p.m. in the University SportsCenter.

Welliver, who is known for his use of the "unromanticized" wilderness of the Maine woods as the source of his art, will also be presented with an honorary degree during the ceremony.

The gifted artist will address the 207 students that comprise UMFK's graduating class, their family members and friends, university faculty and staff, and invited guests attending the 2004 commencement exercises.

In addition to showing a video of his works and taking questions from the graduates, Welliver will be conferred with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by UMFK President Richard Cost.

"Mr. Welliver is an extraordinarily talented artist who has utilized our wonderful Maine wilderness as the inspiration for much of his work for more than three decades. As an academic community that has recently set forth a new strategic plan, which emphasizes both our unique local culture and extraordinary natural environment, I believe it is most fitting we honor an individual who has so beautifully portrayed the latter on numerous occasions," said Cost.

Welliver was born in 1929 in the rural Pennsylvania town of Millville.

He earned his bachelor of fine arts from the Philadelphia Museum, College of Art in 1953 and a master of fine arts from Yale University's School of Art in 1955.

Welliver has taught art at Cooper Union in New York City and at Yale.

In 1966, he was appointed chairman of the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, a post he held for 23 years. In 1989, he was named professor emeritus at the institution.

Today, he is involved in local government and is committed to the preservation of the environment which he so vividly captures in his work. He owns 1,600 acres of land which are currently being protected from possible future development through creation of land trusts.

Welliver's paintings, often as large as eight square feet, depict the detail and everyday cycles of nature in a landscape untouched by man.

Rushing icy water in thawing spring streams, boulder strewn hills, groves of birch and old growth spruce, verdant leaves of spring and reflections of autumn foliage are subjects of Welliver's recent large scale paintings and plein air studies.

Using gestural strokes of pure color against pure color, painted wet on wet, each mark defining a form, Welliver creates great space and depth while simultaneously asserting the flatness of the picture plane. Welliver has stated that his goal as a painter is to make a natural painting as fluid as a de Kooning.

His work has been the subject of over eighty one-person exhibitions. It is included in numerous private and public collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art.