(1931 - 2004)
Known for his Pop-Art nude figures--the Great American Nude
Series-- as well as collages, often with food themes, Tom Wesselmann is a Cincinnati born artist who studied at the Art Academy of
Cincinnati and at Cooper Union in New
York City in the late 1950s.
When he was a student at Cooper Union, he was much influenced by Abstract
Expressionism, especially Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. However, he
turned away from that style because he determined these artists had become so
introspective that there was little room for creative exploration by others.
His reaction took him to Pop Art, the other extreme of action painting to a
tightly controlled style and subject matter that was mundane--the antithesis of
psychological complexities. Joining a rebellion against the New York School,
that which had become the establishment, he, like Andy Warhol and Wayne
Thiebaud, asserted that everyday objects had significance unto themselves and
that they were worthy of depiction because of a common understanding about what
Of this reaction, Norman Geske of Sheldon
Gallery wrote: "The
swing of the pendulum was complete, from the esoteric to the commonplace, from
passionate individualism to the popular language of the marketplace. The new
point of view was not merely popular, it was 'pop,' assertive, declamatory,
defiant, achieving a stylistic identity in the soup cans of Andy Warhol, the
comic strips of Roy Lichtenstein, the billboards of James Rosenquist, and the domestic
icons of Tom Wesselmann."
In 1959, Wesselmann began his collages which showed influence of modernist
artists ranging from Willem de Kooning and Henri Matisse. These collages were
usually interior scenes with nude figures, a subject he did so repeatedly that
it seemed an obsession. During the mid-1960s, he focused solely on female
nudes, presenting them as sex objects with emphasis on breasts, mouth, and
Dictionary of American Artists by Matthew Baigell and
The American Painting Collection of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery by
Norman Geske and Karen Janovy.