Tom Wesselmann, Study for Nude Lithograph, 01 Painting, The Art Of The Nude, with footnotes # 15

Tom Wesselmann, 1931 – 2004
Study for Nude Lithograph, dated 1976

Oil on canvas
11 x 16 in. (28 x 40.6 cm.)
Private property

Initially a cartoonist for men’s magazines, Tom Wesselmann reduced the classical female nude to her essential components: lips, nips and pubes. His Venuses have tan lines. Cigarettes dangle from their rocket-red mouths. Their crisp outlines resonate with the immediacy of a neon sign. Like the nudes of Titian, Velasquez, or Rubens, Wesselmann’s mid-century modern nudes sprawl across furniture in suggestive poses, awaiting a lover the viewer naturally assumes is him. Wesselmann’s chief interest was not to draw attention to the subject, but “to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art.” He succeeded brilliantly at this, and his work engages our senses – as Jim Dine told him before Wesselmann’s first show in New York, “You may be one of America’s great painters.” More on Tom Wesselmann

Tom Wesselmann (1931–2004) was one of the leading American Pop artists of the 1960s. Departing from Abstract Expressionism, he explored classical representations of the nude, still life, and landscape, while incorporating everyday objects and advertising ephemera.


Wesselmann was drafted into the US Army in 1952, two years into the Korean War. During his military service, he learned—then taught—aerial photography interpretation, and began to draw cartoons about his experiences. Upon his return to his hometown of Cincinnati, he completed a BA in psychology at the University of Cincinnati and began taking classes at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. In fall 1956, he moved to New York City to study art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. At Cooper Union, he met Claire Selley, who would become his wife and lifelong muse. 


Living in Brooklyn, Wesselmann supported himself by selling cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post, “gag” magazines, and advertising agencies. In the late 1950s, he cofounded the Judson Gallery in the West Village with Marc Ratliff and Jim Dine. After completing his studies at Cooper Union, Wesselmann spent three years teaching high school art and math. During the evening, he continued to expand his own artistic practice, making small portrait collages. 


Wesselmann 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. Many of these lounging female subjects were painted in patriotic red, white, and blue. In the late 1960s Wesselmann created close-up views of the nude in the Bedroom Paintings (1968–83). More on Tom Wesselmann


From 1967 through 1981 Wesselmann worked on his Standing Still Life paintings, monumental works comprising multiple canvases shaped according to the outline of the commonplace objects that they depict. After the Standing Still Lifes, Wesselmann continued to make three-dimensional sculptural work. He also developed an innovative technique of “drawing” with sculptural materials, cutting steel and aluminum in the shape of his drawn forms. His abstract works of the mid-1990s, through the early 2000s expanded this mode of working on a larger scale, and continued to push the boundaries between painting and sculpture. More on Tom Wesselmann

Please visit my other blogs: Art CollectorMythologyMarine ArtPortrait of a Lady, The Orientalist, and The Canals of Venice

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Author: zaidangallery

I search Art History for Beautiful works that may, or may not, have a secondary or unexpected story to tell. I then write short summaries that grow from my research. Art work is so much more when its secrets are exposed

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