For Dr. Cassandra Broadus-Garcia, it all started with an unassuming box of linoleum blocks in the Connecticut Historical Society’s basement. Broadus-Garcia, chair of the art department at CCSU, was taking students on a behind-the-scenes tour at the society when she spotted the box full of works by Connecticut artist Richard Welling. “The more I read about him, the more I fell in love with his work,” she said.
Broadus-Garcia is the curator of “Through the Eyes of Richard Welling,” a retrospective featuring never-before-seen pieces. The exhibit will run October 23–November 20 at the CCSU Art Gallery in New Britain. “Most of his shown works have been his architectural or urban planning drawings. But this is his more fine arts work. You can see progressions—not just the final product, but also his process. I’m really excited,” she said. Welling’s family donated a large collection to the Connecticut Historical Society. “The whole collection they submitted was unbelievable. They must have kept everything he ever drew,” she said.
Richard Welling was born in Hartford in 1926 and stayed in the Hartford area almost his entire life before his death in 2009. He attended the Yale School of Fine Arts, and after serving in WWII, he decided to continue his education at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. He worked for several years as a commercial artist at the Charles Brunelle Company in Hartford before striking out on his own as a freelancer in 1957. His eye for detail and the precise clarity of his drawings made him very successful in the field.
In the 1960s, Welling began to do more on fine art and developed his distinctive marker wash technique. Welling was colorblind, but didn’t let his disability prevent him from creating the art he wanted to. “He would mark on some drawings what marker he was using at the time, so when he went to pick up the drawing again he would know which marker to use. He did not let it hinder him from being successful,” said Dr. Broadus-Garcia.
Welling was detail-oriented and had a true affection for the urban and the industrial. He would often rent a hotel room just to get the specific overhead view he wanted. His drawings were so precise that even the minutest part of a motorcycle engine would be left out. In his drawing of the Stanley Whitman house, “it’s as if every stone that is in their stone wall is in that drawing,” she said.
“His apartment was across from Union Station. He had this passion for trains and for architecture,” said Dr. Broadus-Garcia. Welling often did drawing on-site, but also amassed an extensive collection of Polaroids to capture things he found interesting for use in later drawings. “I’m going to be showing a whole series of Polaroid images where he has photographed letters and text from manhole covers, signs, staircases, and more,” she said.
Welling was interested in capturing specific moments and places in as clearly as possible. “In one of his sketchbooks, he has an on-site drawing that he did during a women’s rights demonstration in downtown Hartford. He’s everywhere! And when he’s drawing, he puts the date and time and sometimes even the hotel room number. Sometimes he will say ‘windy but sunny day.’ That’s what makes his drawings so interesting. He’s telling a visual history with all the little details for us,” she said.
Dr. Broadus-Garcia says she feels honored to be able to bring this collection the public. This will be the first time the public will get to the fine arts side of Richard Welling. She was only able to do the work because of a grant she received from CSU-AAUP. “I got research money to do this, but its culminating outcome is this major exhibition and I think that is unbelievably unique. It’s not a paper that goes into some esoteric journal that no one reads. It is an exciting contribution I can make to Connecticut’s visual arts history,” she said.