Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004)

Best known for his paintings, collages, sculptures, and screen prints that stylized and celebrated the female figure, Tom Wesselmann was a leading American Pop artist.


Born on February 23, 1931 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Wesselmann initially studied at the University of Cincinnati, before being drafted into the Unites States Army to serve in the Korean War in 1953. During this two-year period, Wesselmann began drawing cartoons, and, on his return home after the war, he completed his psychology degree before enrolling to study drawing at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. In 1956, he moved to New York where he attended the Cooper Union. Soon after graduating, Wesselmann founded the Judson Gallery, along with Jim Dine and Marcus Ratliff.

Beginning in the 1960s with his Great American Nude series, Wesselmann drew from Americana and media culture to produce billboard-scaled paintings in flat bold colors. Influenced by De Kooning, particularly his Women series of the 1950s, Wesselmann remained dedicated to figuration in his art. Perhaps most notably, he reconfigured the tradition of the female nude, his most enduring subject, creating often blatantly erotic portrayals of this subject in works that provide a distinctly contemporary take on the traditional ideals of the female form in art.


Since his break out Great American Nude series, Wesselmann’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions around the globe, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1961, 1966, and 1977, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988. Wesselmann also participated in the 1988 Venice Biennale.


Wesselmann’s works are included in numerous museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Art Institute of Chicago; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Nationalgalerie, Berlin, and the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.


Tom Wesselmann died in December 2004 in New York City.