Tom Wesselmann


Tom Wesselmann

Tom Wesselmann was an American painter, sculptor and printmaker associated with the Pop Art movement. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1931, he received his BA in psychology from the University of Cincinnati, and also studied drawing at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. In 1956, he moved to New York City to continue his studies at Cooper Union. He continued to reside in New York until his death in 2004.

Wesselmann originally planned to become a cartoonist until his final year at Cooper Union, when he was encouraged to become a painter. Initially inspired by the action paintings of Abstract Expressionists such as William de Kooning, he attempted to find a new direction centred on a tangible subject. Choosing the human figure, he began to make small collages out of torn paper and found materials. In the 1960s, Wesselmann’s Great American Nudes series would earn him critical acclaim and financial success. These iconic works featured flat figures in an intense palette of red, white, blue, and other patriotic colours. Daring for its time, these nudes scandalized the American public, though Wesselmann maintained that he was neither a chauvinist nor a social critic, but simply loved the images mainly for their visual prowess.

Wesselmann was one of the artists featured in The New Realists, a 1962 exhibition in New York that included important contemporaries from America and Europe such as Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Yves Klein. Though commonly associated with Pop Art, he rejected the label, as his use of advertising ephemera and everyday consumer objects in his work was not ironic. Rather, his nudes, still-lifes and interior scenes recalled the European tradition, and he looked towards artists such as Matisse and Titian. For Wesselmann, the use of clippings in his collages and assemblages was simply a way to animate figurative art and to make pictures more intense.

Wesselmann worked constantly, producing a prolific body of work in a career spanning forty years. Over the years, experimented with the use of collage and mixed media assemblage, and in the 1980s introduced metal and shaped canvases into his practice. In his final years, he returned to the female form in his Sunset Nudes series.


Tom Wesselmann , A 68 Cross Motion II, 2000-2002
Tom Wesselmann , Blue Nude # 19, 2001
Tom Wesselmann , Hedy Nude (rubbed), 1962-1990
Tom Wesselmann , Nude with Bouquet and Stockings (Variation #7), 1985
Tom Wesselmann , Rosemary Lying on one elbow (rubbed), 1989
Tom Wesselmann , Study for blonde Monica in half slip (Thin line), 1986
Tom Wesselmann , Study for Claire putting on robe, 1992
Tom Wesselmann , Study for Marilyn, 1982
Tom Wesselmann , Study for Nude with lamp, 1977
Tom Wesselmann , Sunset Nude (Variation #1), 2002
Tom Wesselmann , Smoking Cigarette #2, 1980