The Influence of a Master

Often called “New Jersey’s Greatest Living Painter,” Mel Leipzig is also a beloved teacher, whose students take his classes again and again, even after receiving recognition in their field. The West Windsor Arts Center is privileged to be exhibiting “The Influence of a Teacher: Mel Leipzig and Proteges“,  through April 29. There will be an opening reception March 19, 4:30-7 pm, and Professor Leipzig will give a talk, “The Influence of Monet, Cezanne and Manet“, March 27, 2-3:30 pm.  Visit for location and free event parking details.

The exhibit includes the work of Professor Leipzig and more than 25 artists who have studied with him, many who have gone on to successful art careers of their own. Professor Leipzig has taught at Mercer County Community College for more than 30 years. His class is so popular and his teaching so well loved, he is sometimes referred to as the Pied Piper of the art world. Students sign up for his classes again and again, and some have been studying with him for more than a quarter century.

A hundred years from now, a reviewer wrote, someone searching for a truthful depiction of middle-class suburban life in America in the late 20th and early 21st centuries would do well to study the paintings of Mel Leipzig. The Trenton-based realist painter has captured in loving detail the central New Jersey experience, from the texture of dropped ceilings and the clutter emerging from open file drawers, family life, scenes around the campus of Mercer County Community College, to the utter comfort and relaxation of a woman reclining on a soft armchair by the picture window of her living room.

The people in Leipzig’s paintings are teachers, architects and artists; tattooed teenagers in a bedroom or young adults sneaking out by moonlight to experience a world beyond their suburban domicile; parents and their children poised over the remains of dinner, or getting ready to begin the day in the mirrored reflection of a tiled bathroom; families in their backyards and at the beach; robed clergy posing in their places of worship.

His refusal to work from photographs because it “would dilute the intensity of feeling that I am seeking” means he heads out regularly in his white van, crisscrossing the New Jersey midlands 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 his business.

He has exhibited his artwork in numerous one-man and group gallery shows, most recently at Gallery Henoch in New York, the New Jersey State Museum, the Pearlman Gallery at Drexel University, the Villanova University Art Gallery, Richard Stockton College and can be seen at the Noyes Museum (through May 29) and at Westminster College of the Arts Rider University Art Gallery (March 10-April 17).

The art critic Burton Wasserman has called Leipzig “New Jersey’s Greatest Living Painter.” 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.
Among the many museums and institutions in which his works can be found are the White House Collection in Washington, DC, The Whitney Museum, the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, Conn., the National Endowment for the Arts Gallery, the New Jersey State Museum and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City.

Artists who studied with Professor Leipzig for two or more years are included in the exhibit, “The Influence of a Teacher.”

Read Harry Naar’s interview in US1 with Mel Leipzig here. Read about three of Mel Leipzig’s students in West Windsor-Plainsboro News here. See a story about the exhibit in TIMEOFF here.  And watch a film on NJN’s State of the Arts about Mel Leipzig here.

This entry was posted in Central NJ Art, realism. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Influence of a Master

  1. Pingback: Trenton Makes Art | The Artful Blogger

  2. mel, he is the teacher who really cares. In 1971, I was stumped, Tryling to draw in Cadwalder park, I will never forget that he went home to get me a book for reference on something. Don’t remember the book or the instruction, I think I was overwhelmed that someone would care so much. Some feelings never fade.

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