Tom Wesselmann (b. 1931 Cincinnati, OH – d. 2004 New York, NY) was an American artist associated with Pop Art. Working across painting, collage, sculpture, and screenprinting, Wesselmann is particularly known for his brightly colored, flatly rendered nudes, still lifes, and landscapes charged with eroticism.
Wesselmann attended Hiram College in Ohio from 1949 to 1951. He then served in the army for two years and ultimately received a BA in psychology in 1954 from the University of Cincinnati. While serving in the army, Wesselmann enjoyed drawing as a pastime and decided to pursue a career in art. After graduation, he moved to New York and started his studies at Cooper Union, where he received a diploma for fine arts in 1959. During his studies, he visited museums in New York and felt inspired by Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning, although he rejected abstraction and instead depicted everyday objects and popular imagery.
His work from the 60s incorporates common imagery from magazines and advertisements and in the late 1960s, he created the erotic series Great American Nudes. Throughout his career he often revisited and rearranged images and objects from his work, increasing or decreasing the scale and experimenting with new mediums such as shaped canvases or metal sculptures, which he designed to appear as line drawings made directly on a wall. In the 80s, Wesselmann wrote an autobiography about the evolution of his artwork thus far under the facetious pseudonym Slim Stealingworth, and in the 1990s and early 2000s, he continued to innovate with abstracted 3-dimensional images. In his final years, he focused on completing goals he had set at the beginning of his career around 1959 and returned to depicting the female form. In the resulting series of oil paintings, Sunset Nudes, Wesselmann revisited the the flattened figures of Great American Nudes, but emboldened and abstracted the forms, alluding to he nudes of Henri Matisse and Man Ray.
Wesselmann’s work has been the subject of major exhibitions at Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada; and The Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale, FL. His work is included in major public collections, among them the Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Tate Gallery, London.