Tom Wesselmann (1931 - 2004)



Tom Wesselmann (1931 - 2004)

Sunset Nude with Yellow Tulips (9/75), 2004-2006
Mixographia print on handmade paper
36.50 x 41 in
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Publisher: Mixografía, Los Angeles, California
Verso: Estate Stamp, Signed by Claire Wesselmann, Executor of the Estate


One of the giants of New York Pop Art, Tom Wesselmann came to prominence with the highly saturated tones and masterful compositions of his Great American Nudes series, returning again to the female form in later years. Fusing an awareness of the advertising of the time and the visual presentation of sex symbols such as Marilyn Monroe with classical representations of the nude, Wesselmann’s incisive work is both bold and luscious, its shining colors and striking forms firmly securing the artist’s place alongside Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. True to the edicts of Pop, Wesselmann’s still life works incorporate everyday objects in bright collages and assemblages, rendered in his trademark hues and stylized shapes.

Born in 1931, Tom Wesselmann exhibited widely during his lifetime, notably at the MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. He also participated in the 43rd Venice Biennale in 1988. After his death in 2004, Wesselmann’s work continues to be shown internationally; at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2012, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, in 2013, and at the Denver Art Museum and the Cincinnati Art Museum in 2014.



Tom Wesselmann (1931 - 2004)

 

 

Tom Wesselmann was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on February 23, 1931. He attended Hiram College in Ohio from 1949 to 1951 before entering the University of Cincinnati. In 1953 his studies were interrupted by a two-year enlistment in the army, during which time he began drawing cartoons. He returned to the university in 1954 and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1956; during this time he decided to pursue a career in cartooning and so enrolled at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. After graduation he moved to New York City, where he was accepted into the Cooper Union and where his focus shifted dramatically to fine art; he received his diploma in 1959.

Wesselmann became one of the leading American Pop artists of the 1960s, rejecting abstract expressionism in favor of the classical representations of the nude, still life, and landscape. He created collages and assemblages incorporating everyday objects and advertising ephemera to make images as powerful as the abstract expressionism he admired. He is perhaps best known for his Great American Nude series with their fat forms and intense colors.

In the seventies, Wesselmann continued to explore the ideas and media which had preoccupied him during the Sixties. Most significantly, his large Standing Still Life series, composed of free-standing shaped canvases, showed small intimate objects on a grand scale. In 1980 Wesselmann, using the pseudonym Slim Stealingworth, wrote an autobiography documenting the evolution of his artistic work. He continued exploring shaped canvases (first exhibited in the 1960s) and began creating his first works in metal. He instigated the development of a laser-cutting application, which would allow him to make a faithful translation of his drawings in cut-out metal. The 1990s and early 2000s saw the artist expanding on these themes, creating abstract three-dimensional images that he described as “going back to what I had desperately been aiming for in 1959.” He had indeed come full circle. In his final years, he returned to the female form in his Sunset Nudes series of oil paintings on canvas, whose bold compositions, abstract imagery, and cheerful moods often recall the odalisque of Henri Matisse.

Wesselmann worked in New York City for more than four decades. He lived in New York City with his wife, Claire, daughters Jenny and Kate, and son Lane. He died there on December 17, 2004.

 

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