b. 1931, Cincinnati, OH
d. 2004, New York, NY
American painter, sculptor and printmaker. Wesselmann planned to become a cartoonist until
his final year at the Cooper Union in New York, where he studied from 1956 to 1959 and was
encouraged to become a painter. The powerful work of Willem de Kooning provided both inspiration
and inhibition as he attempted to find a new direction centred around a tangible subject. During the
1950's, Wesselmann created small collages that would be precursors to his later series Great American Nudes.
These and giant still-lifes composed of common household objects and collage elements culled from
popular advertising images brought him fame and notoriety as a founder of American Pop Art, favouring
classical representation of still life, nudes and landscape. In the late 1960s an increasingly dominant
eroticism emerged in works. The pictorial elements, exaggerated in their arabesque forms and arbitrary
colouring, became significantly larger in scale in his works of the 1970s, enormous, partially free-standing
still-lifes moved into sculptural space, and finally became discrete sculptures of sheet metal. In the 1980s
he returned to works for the wall with cut-out steel or aluminium drawings which replicate his familiar,
graceful line in enamel on cut-out metal. He was also an innovative printmaker, adapting his imagery to
lithographs, screenprints,aquatints and multiples in relief.
The years following Wesselmann’s death were marked by a renewed interest in his work.
Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma (MACRO) exhibited a retrospective in 2005. A lifetime retrospective
of drawings, Tom Wesselmann Draws, was shown at Haunch of Venison Gallery, New York, and then
traveled to The Museum of Fine Art, Fort Lauderdale, FL, at Nova Southeastern University, and
The Kreeger Museum in Washington, DC. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Cincinnati Art Museum,
USA, Denver Art Museum, Denver, USA, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, USA and
the Montreal Museum Of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada.
Wesselmann has been included in numerous public collections, including Art Institute of Chicago,Chicago;
Museum of Modern Art, New York; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden,
Washington DC; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington DC;
and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.