Tom Wesselmann 1931 —2004


Tom Wesselmann was born in Cincinnati in 1931 and began his studies in art in Cincinnati but soon moved to New York to study at Cooper Union.   Willem de Kooning’s work influenced Wesselmann’s Abstract Expressionist paintings during his formative years but he soon turned away from this style as he found it to be too introspective, preventing exploration by newcomers.

Acclaimed with the likes of Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenstein as the founding artists of the Pop movement, Wesselman veered away from painting and created small non-figurative collages beginning in 1959.  Like Warhol, he incorporated images from advertisements of his time along with ordinary found objects and stylized nudes depicted with a stylistic identity all his own into his mixed media collages.

When Wesselman showed the 100-piece “Great American Nude Series” at the Tanger Gallery in New York City in 1961 the dialectic between art and life or, in his words, between “beauty and ugliness” served as a pointed context for his female nude series.  He sought to update the traditional American depiction of the female nude in terms of the changes society was undergoing.

During a time when obscenity laws were being loosened under the Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren and the revolutionary findings of the Kinsey Reports on human sexuality were revealed to the public, Wesselmann harnessed the social context and depicted the female form as a commercialized, objectified muse to the emerging well-heeled consumerist viewer.

Like Warhol with his soup cans, Wesselmann created defiant, oratorical domestic icons of his nudes.  His figures are shown with only a few sharp contour lines exemplifying his constant reconciliation between working figuratively yet still combining his early schooling in abstraction.  The female nude has been the point of focus in each major series of paintings and sculpture throughout his career.


Source: JSTOR: Smithsonian Studies in American Art, Vol. 4, Tom Wesselman and the Americanization of the Nude by, David McCarthy

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Still Life with Four Roses and Pear

Still Life with Four Roses and Pear
Alkyd on laser-cut steel

21.5 x 23.25 inches

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