Tom Wesselmann

Tom Wesselmann was one of the leading American Pop artists of the 1960s. Born in 1931 in Cincinnati, Ohio, he first studied psychology. Shortly after completing his degree at the University of Cincinatti, he relocated to New York City to study art at the Cooper Union. He lived and worked in New York city, where he died aged 73 in 2004.


Wesselmann is well known for his collages, prints, paintings, and sculptures depicting still lifes, landscapes, and nudes. Over the course of his career, he reinterpreted these themes using his own distinctive visual language, characterized by a reductive line and bold, flat primary colors, often incorporating symbols of American culture.  He is highly regarded for his Great American Nude series (1961–73), which combines sensual depictions of the female figure with references to art history and popular culture. Wesselmann's work increased in scale in the 1970s, as he began painting simple objects on shaped canvases in his Standing Still Life series. Later on, he developed an innovative technique of "drawing" with sculptural materials, cutting steel and aluminum in the shape of his drawn forms. In his last years, he returned to the female nude that had become so iconic in his work, producing the Sunset Nude series.


Wesselmann exhibited internationally throughout his lifetime, including several groundbreaking group exhibitions in the US in the 1970s and two major retrospectives that toured Europe and Japan in the mid-1990s. Solo presentations of his work include Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (2018); Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec (2012), travelled to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Denver Art Museum; and Cincinnati Art Museum; Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Florida (2010), travelled to the Kreeger Museum, Washington, D.C.; and Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Roma, Italy (2005). His works are included in numerous museum collections including Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Paris; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Berardo   Collection, Lisbon; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; and Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.

Tom Wesselmann in his studio, 1992. Photo © Thomas Hoepker