People Places and Plants (Summer 1998):
. . . The Neil Welliver of 1998 can still come off as Patton with a paintbrush, as a bitter, grief stricken, mournful hero. . . .
. . . (Welliver) has been one of the most misunderstood people . . . . that’s ironic, because he’s so direct. . . He’s hysterically funny. And he would never want me to, but I could go on and on about his enormous capacity for generosity and giving. He has always been a champion of causes. The man just has an absolutely flawless moral compass. He has set a kind of high bar to reach, a plateau, a place of excellence. . .
Robert Hughes American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America (1997):
. . . Neil Welliver came out of Abstract Expressionism, seeking to escape an exhausted style in order to rearrange the physical world and recomplicate the game: but in his work the original genetic code shows clearly. His large paintings of Maine woods. . . could only have matured in the last thirty years A. P. (after Pollock). . .
. . . (His) landscapes are “all-over” paintings, slices taken from a boundless field of pictorial incident. They pay homage to the materialism of Courbet, and to the large-scale nineteenth-century American landscape, and to Abstract Expressionism, all at once. . .
Mark Strand, 1997:
. . . His landscapes compel our attention as no one else’s do. Their inclusiveness, their singularity are overwhelming. What we see--and what moves us--are the force and depth of his connection to his chosen terrain. There is nothing ambivalent about his passion. He will paint nothing else. The woods are not only his, they are him. . .
Stanton L. Catlin, 1995:
. . . His present work, together with that of previous decades, is a continuum, in which the reality of nature, stripped of myth, and shown in its unlimited prolixity, comprises a unique, unitary view of natural existence in the region from which it comes . . .
. . . If a new pantheon of post-Abstract Expressionist American painting could be in the making. Welliver is at the nucleus of its formation, as well as one of its ties to the past. . .
Frank Goodyear, 1993:
. . . Landscape is a critical concern of Welliver’s; he loves the land and is committed to its preservation. . .
. . . Years ago, Neil said to me that his goal as a painter was to make a natural painting as fluid as de Kooning. And he repeatedly acknowledges that the vitality of his own art comes from Abstract Expressionism, and that he has a natural affinity for pure abstraction. What is truly remarkable about his paintings is their success in, at once, organizing the picturesque elements of nature without loss of phenomenological integrity, and at the same time, achieving abstract structure without the feeling of the imposition of a natural order.
John Ashbery, 1985:
. . . The opulent light, the reverberating space, the atmospherics of the canvases he does today are the product not of some retardataire nineteenth-century Yankee hankering after the sublime, but had their origin in the flat, saturated squares of Albers and in other seeming abstraction; in Mondrian’s “constellations of colour that are separate;” in late Monet where “it doesn’t seem as though he is looking anymore. He’s putting colors together and fabricating an image;” in Pollock, not for his color but for “accepting the physical fact of the canvas.” . . .
Edwin Denby, 1981:
Q. Could you talk about the difference between Courbet, Bierstadt, de Kooning and how they might relate to your painting?
A. Courbet looked very hard and had a method. Bierstadt did not look very hard and had a method, and de Kooning makes it up as he goes along. I think I relate much more to de Kooning because I look very hard and then I make it up as I go along.
Q. But large pictures . . .
A. . . . But, you know, if you look at the 19th century American luminous painters, as they are now called. Church, in particular, or Bierstadt. If you look at the construction of the larger pictures, there is a very careful overlapping construction which takes you “in” to this thing, in, in, in, in, to the painting. And a denial of the surface of the painting by its construction. It still relates back to the Renaissance idea of denying the surface, divine perspective, etc., that still pervades those paintings and between the late 19th century and now comes this, what is for me one of the greatest ideas of 20th century painting, and that is the fact of the painting again. The surface of the picture is a fact on which you paint. The maintenance of that is very exciting to me, but also I want the other thing, so you have that conflicted image. What you hope for is something that virtually oscillates, where you go in and there’s a surface and you go in and there’s the surface. And that, I think, is difficult to look at.
Q. And that’s what you would like to do?
A. Yes. Have my cake and eat it too.