Artist Richard Welling Dies At 83; Pen-And-Ink Drawings Captured Hartford's Essence
November 12, 2009
HARTFORD — - For more than 40 years, Richard Welling captured Hartford in his pen-and-ink line drawings, telling the city's story with every stroke.
Described by some as a unique freehand artist with an eye for detail, Welling, who lived in Hartford, died of cancer at age 83 last week, leaving behind a body of work with historical significance.
His drawings chronicled Hartford's changing skyline. He documented the construction of both the Hartford National Bank & Trust and Travelers buildings, and the razing in 1978 of the Civic Center's roof after it collapsed from the weight of a heavy snowfall. He also captured a Christmas scene at G. Fox & Co. shortly before it closed in 1993.
Welling's drawings of the Old State House were regularly featured in a calendar for the former Coordinating Council of the Arts.
"He was a great guy," said Fran Gordon of West Hartford, who did publicity for the council. "He was very talented, and I'm honored to have known him."
Though described as a homebody, Welling, who was born in Hartford, frequented New York City and Boston, capturing the essence of those cities, too. After 9/11, he donated his drawings of the construction of the World Trade Center's twin towers to the New York Historical Society.
Welling drew pictures of Hartford for retiring business executives, and his drawings were showcased in city hotel rooms, said his daughter, Debrah Welling of New York City.
"He loved putting the windows on buildings," she remembered Wednesday, adding that most of his work was in black and white because he was color blind.
Despite the public exposure his work received, Welling had some artwork he chose not to share. His daughter said she recently discovered a scrapbook as she searched her father's cluttered Union Place apartment for his military discharge papers. The book dated from when Welling was 18 and stationed in Europe during World War II. It includes photographs, cartoons and sketches of military equipment.
After he left the military, Welling attended Parsons School of Design in New York, graduating in 1949.
He began his career as a commercial artist and later became known as a fine artist. He lived on his earnings and an inheritance from his aunt.
In the early 1970s, Welling impressed Michael Wetstone, a student in Welling's art class titled "Drawing in the City," at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Welling always encouraged observation and creativity, Wetstone said.
"He was really teaching us to look and appreciate what was there," said Westone, who now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and works for Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP, which specializes in work on historic buildings.
Wetstone, who does much of the his work freehand like Welling, owns an original drawing of the New York City skyline done by Welling and has a copy of Welling's book "The Technique of Drawing Buildings."
Visiting hours will be Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Dillon-Baxter Funeral Home, 1276 Berlin Turnpike, Wethersfield. A funeral will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at the funeral home. Burial with military honors will take place in Cedar Hill Cemetery, 453 Fairfield Ave., Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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