One of the leading American Pop artists of the 1960s, Tom Wesselmann rejected Abstract expressionism in favor of the classical representations of the nude, still life, and landscape. Striving “to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art,” he developed a visual lexicon which is iconic and instantly recognizable.
A celebration of form and shape, the work of Tom Wesselmann uniquely blended contemporary images and pop culture with classical representation. Placing an emphasis on the female nude, he reduced the human form to exaggerated flattened, simplified motifs in paintings which were boldly-colored, erotically-charged and assertive. Isolating erogenous zones, such as hair, lips, nipples or teeth, he created the ideal body for the consumer age. He also produced collages and assemblages which incorporated everyday objects and advertising ephemera.
Wesselman is best known for his 1960s series “Great American Nudes”, which featured flat female figures juxtaposed with contemporary signs of consumer culture and politics. The nudes are placed in a typical American interior, painted in an intense palette of red, blue, and other patriotic colors.
In the 1980s, the artist published his autobiography using the pseudonym Slim Stealingworth, charting the evolution of his artistic practice. His works are in the permanent collection of MoMA, the Smithsonian, the Whitney, Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, the Israel Museum, The Museum of Modern Art in Japan and other institutions around the world.
Although he is often associated with Pop Art, Wesselmann never intended his works to serve as a cultural critique. He always insisted that there was no deep meaning at the root of his art.
Tom Wesselmann was born in 1931 in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. He worked in New York City for more than four decades, where he lived with his wife and three children. This is where he died in 2004 following a surgery for his heart condition. His last major series of paintings titled “Sunset Nudes” was shown after his death at the Robert Miller Gallery in New York in 2006.