Tom Wesselmann

Study for Picasso for Sunset Nude with Picasso


Ink and colored pencil on 100% rag tracing paper

Sheet: 4-1/2″ x 5-1/8″ (11.4 x 12 cm)

Image: 2-3/4″ x 2-1/2″ (7 x 6.4 cm)

Framed: 10-7/8″ x 10-5/8″ (27.6 x 27 cm)

Tom Wesselmann (1931–2004) made pivotal contributions to the American Pop Art movement. Distinguished for colorful paintings, sculpture, prints, and drawings that depict nudes, everyday objects, and avant-garde abstractions, Wesselmann’s graceful line, tight formal compositions, and highly polished style are instantly recognizable and visually enticing.

Tom Wesselmann was born in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1931. He attended Hiram College from 1949–1951 and was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952, during the Korean War. However, he served as a reconnaissance aerial photography interpreter in the United States. Once discharged, Wesselmann began his study in drawing at the Art Academy of Cincinnati with the intention of becoming a magazine cartoonist. Wesselmann’s cartoons were published in several magazines including The New Yorker.

With some early success, Wesselmann was encouraged to advance his career in cartoons and moved to New York in 1956 to attended Cooper Union. There he was inspired by the work of modern artists including Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning. Wesselmann’s experience with Abstract Expressionism and courses in philosophy slowly shifted his desired career away from cartoons. In 1958, during a trip to rural New Jersey, Wesselmann finally put cartooning aside, in favor of a career in fine art. Along with Jim Dine and Marc Ratliff, Wesselmann founded the Judson Gallery. There he showed his early collages, but continued to teach in the Brooklyn public school system to earn a living.

In the early 1960s, inspired by the evocative work of Willem de Kooning, Wesselmann began creating collages of paper and other media. His nudes, which first began as small compositions, later transformed into the large-scale “Great American Nudes,” which were a pivotal series in gaining attention from the art world. Along with the depiction of everyday objects and images appropriated from advertisements, Wesselmann’s nudes established his place as one of the founders of the Pop Art movement.

With the help of Alex Katz, Wesselmann’s first solo exhibition was held at the New York Tanager Gallery in 1961. The following year Wesselmann took part in the “New Realists” show at Sidney Janis Gallery, an international show that represented a major shift away from Abstract Expressionism toward Pop Art.

Throughout the course of Wesselmann’s highly successful career, his work became increasingly abstract. Both his so-called “Smoker” and “Bedroom Painting” series represent a tension between erotic subject matter and purely abstract compositions.

Wesselmann’s works are held in major national and international collections including—but not limited to: the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Louisiana Museum, Humblebaek, Denmark; and the Tokyo Central Museum, Japan.

Wesselmann died in New York in 2004.

2013 – Pop Art Accrochage, Fluegel-Roncak Gallery, Nuremberg, Germany

2013 – “Beyond Pop Art,” The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Quebek

2011 – “Grafiken,” Galerie Klaus Benden, Cologne, Germany

2011 – “Tom Wesselmann,” Kreeger Museum, Washington, District of Columbia

2010 – “Tom Wesselmann Draws,” Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

2010 – “Tom Wesselmann: 1958-2004,” Haunch of Venison Gallery, London, United Kingdom

2008 – “Dessins, Gouaches, Maquettes et Peintures,” JGM Galerie, Paris, France

2007 – “Tom Wesselmann,” The Columns Galler, Seoul, Korea

2007 – “Tom Wesselmann: Drop-Out,” Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York, New York

2006 – “Tom Wesselmann: Nudes,” The Andipa Gallery, London, United Kingdom

2004 – Galerie Rive Gauches, Paris, France

2000 – “Tom Wesselmann: Blue Nudes,” Joseph Helman Gallery, New York, New York

1999 – “Tom Wesselmann: Small Survey: Small Scale,” Maxwell Davidson Galerie, Munich, Germany

1993 – “Tom Wesselmann: New Cut Outs and Drawings,” Wassermann Galerie, Munich, Germany

1992 – Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, New York

1991 – Galerie Tokoro, Tokyo, Japan

1985 – Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, New York

1982 – “Recent Work by Tom Wesselmann,” Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, New York

1981 – Hokin Gallery, Miami, Florida

1980 – “New Sculpture and Paintings by Tom Wesselmann,” Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, New York

1979 – Ehrich Gallery, New York, New York

1979 – Galerie Serge di Bloe, Brussels, Belgium

1978 – “Tom Wesselmann: Graphics 1964-1977,” Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Massachusetts

1976 – Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, New York