Mel Leipzig: Everything is Paintable

Mel Leipzig: Everything is Paintable re-aired June 2015.

PBS Arts
View a touching and intimate profile of renowned Realist Painter Mel Leipzig.

About the Program

Premiered: January 2, 2013

The remarkable life and work of realist painter Mel Leipzig is profiled in this touching thirty-minute documentary produced and directed by the artist’s Trenton, New Jersey neighbor, Eric Schultz. 

At the age of 78, Leipzig is painting more than he ever has. Among the many museums and institutions in which his works can be found are the White House Collection in Washington, D.C.; The Whitney Museum; the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut; the National Endowment for the Arts Gallery; the New Jersey State Museum; and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City.

Read more about the program below.

A Closer Look at Mel Leipzig: Everything is Paintable

More About the Program

As sculptor Jonathan Shahn points out in the documentary, “Mel Leipzig has a strangely distorted sense of perspective that is wholly his own, and he loves clutter and mess.”  In fact, as viewers will learn, he paints portraits of people in their own environments, and the amount of detail he captures is extraordinary.

For many years, Leipzig almost exclusively painted members of his family. But, a few years ago, when his beloved wife suddenly and unexpectedly died, Mel Leipzig turned to other subjects, first to the Unitarian minister who presided over his wife’s funeral, but then to other religious leaders. He next turned to friends, famous architects and other noted artists. Art critic Gerald Haggerty, sculptor Jonathan Shahn and architect Michael Graves became subjects, and are among the intriguing characters featured in the documentary.

Leipzig refuses to work from photographs because it would, he says, “dilute the intensity of feeling that I am seeking.” Throughout the documentary he is seen climbing in and out of his white van, crisscrossing the east coast to keep his in situ painting appointments. He arrives with everything he needs, including a tarp, paper towels, paint stand and even the water to clean his brushes. Wearing a shirt and tie, he steps into his paint-spattered coveralls and gets down to work.

Leipzig studied at Cooper Union, Yale University (under Josef Albers) and Pratt Institute, where he earned his M.F.A.

He received a Fulbright Grant to Paris and four grants for painting from the New Jersey Council on the Arts. He was the first recipient of the MCCC Distinguished Teaching Award (1980), and was one of the last individual artists to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (1996). Other awards include a Fulbright Traveling Fellowship and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award. In 2006, he was elected to the National Academy, an honorary association of professional artists in New York City. 


Mel Leipzig: Everything is Paintable was produced by
New Jersey Network and PCK Media, LLC.


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