Men at Work

Welling Men at Work035

Construction Workers. Drawing by Richard Welling, 1969. The Connecticut Historical Society, Gift of the Richard Welling Family

Richard Welling was known as the “Artist in a Hard Hat” because he spent so much time at construction sites. He spent so much time drawing the World Trade Center when it was first going up in Manhattan that the Port Authority issued him a pass to the site—and his own hard hat. Welling was fascinated with how buildings are built, and he had a real affinity for the construction workers who build them. Though I don’t usually think of Richard Welling drawing people, his sketchbooks provide vivid glimpses of these men at work: ironworkers and welders and men pouring cement. In this double-page spread from one of Welling’s sketchbooks, the drawings on the back side of the sheets have bled through, creating a complex, multi-layered image that the artist may not have intended. The looming figure at the right is identified as a “sidewalk superintendent.” Tiny figures of construction workers appear in many of Welling’s drawings of construction and demolition, helping the human viewer to relate to their often inhuman scale. When the artist’s family gave the contents of the his Hartford studio to the Connecticut Historical Society in 2011-2012, it included hundreds of drawings, thousands of photographs, and dozens of personal artifacts, such as the artist’s hard hat. Welling’s work will be featured in an exhibition at the CHS this coming October.

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