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Well-known landscape artist Neil Welliver receives honorary degree at UMFK commencement

May 10, 2004


Prominent Maine landscape painter Neil Welliver was presented an honorary degree by the University of Maine at Fort Kent, during the insititution's 122nd commencement exercises on Saturday, May 8.

Welliver, who is known for his use of the "unromanticized" wilderness of the Maine woods as the source of his art, also presented a video of his work to members of the Class of 2004 and their family members and friends gathered for the ceremony in the University SportsCenter.

The gifted artist was honored just prior to the awarding of degrees to 214 students that comprised UMFK's graduating class.

Welliver was conferred with an honorary doctorate of humane letters by UMFK President Richard Cost.

"It is most appropriate that we present this year's honorary degree to an individual who has both celebrated our precious natural resources by portraying them so vividly through his work and who has also worked tirelessly to preserve the very resources he has immortalized," said Cost in presenting the honor to Welliver. "As an academic institution situated in rural Northern Maine, we too have committed ourselves to recognizing the value of our natural environment in our newly released campus strategic plan."

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.