PRINT Summer 1985




By Frank H. Goodyear, Jr., introduction by John Ashbery, New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1985, 165 pp., 9 black and white illustrations, 60 color plates.

Sixty tipped-in plates, an oversized format, and fine color reproduction on beautiful paper make this volume on Neil Welliver’s work a satisfying retrospective compendium to look at. The texts, as is the case with most monographs, are advocacy writing, encouraging the aggrandizement of the artist’s reputation by attempting to place him within the American tradition of landscape painting while claiming his essential involvement with Modernist principles of abstraction. Both Ashbery and Goodyear point out his influential involvement as a student with Josef Albers at Yale. They also stress the “objectivity” as well as the locally grounded nature of his viewpoint. Neither introduction nor essay goes very far in specifically comparing the work of this artist, who has chosen to live in and paint the Maine landscape of the middle coast, to that of his peers.

What is interesting here is the portrait of Welliver as an artist who knows exactly what he is trying to do as a kind of informed loner, outside the shifting fads of New York. And it is informative to have Goodyear’s careful (though frequently maddeningly repetitive) narration of Welliver’s thoughts and precise ways of working. The book may make those who have dismissed Welliver’s work, for whatever reason, aware of the cool grandeur of his vision and his mastery of specific light qualities and surface unity. The sensitivity of the drawings, watercolors, and prints included here will add to the pleasure of those who are already moved by the artist’s painting.

Alexandra Anderson

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