A building wasn't part of the Hartford skyline until Richard Welling drew it.
Mr. Welling, who died last weekend at 83, was the unofficial artist-historian of Hartford during its most intense period of transition.
He sketched buildings and, each year, the Hartford skyline. His intricate line drawings heralded new structures and memorialized, to his dismay, older ones that were torn down. His work can be found in executive suites — one developer had a "Welling wall" — as well as in boardrooms, banks and law offices. He's had exhibits in local restaurants as well as galleries. His drawings have been given as retirement gifts for decades.
Once a suburb-dwelling commercial artist, Mr. Welling followed his passion for buildings to the city. He grew a beard, adopted a casual wardrobe and moved into an apartment/studio on Union Place, an area that became his Left Bank. He was a character, a man of playful wit. When someone asked about his World War II experience, he replied, "I was in the Army — ours."
He once displayed a photograph he'd taken of the Gold Building in the 1980s that showed shafts of light breaking through a mist and striking the yellow exterior: "Don't you see? It's God talking to Harry Gray."
Mr. Welling had his own nicknames for major buildings in Hartford. Aetna was "the world's largest HoJos," the Stilts Building "the giant flash cube" and the MDC Building "the modern Maginot Line." His favorite building was the state Capitol, for which no nickname was necessary.
We would love to see the Wadsworth Atheneum — or someone — pull together an exhibit of Mr. Welling's work, to honor this most talented man and the city he loved.
Correction: The name of the street depicted in the drawing accompanying this editorial was initially incorrect. The error was corrected Nov. 17.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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