“The prime mission of my art, in the beginning, and continuing still, is to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art.”
Tom Wesselmann (Cincinnati, Ohio, 1931 – New York, New York, 2004) was a central member of the Pop Art movement. Wesselmann attended the University of Cincinnati before serving in the army from 1951 to 1954. While he was in the service, he began drawing cartoons, a hobby which he decided to pursue as a career when his two-year tour ended. After graduating from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, he was accepted into Cooper Union in New York, where he was encouraged by faculty members to pursue painting and printmaking.
In the early 1960s, he began to make small collages and assemblages, which included everyday imagery from magazines, advertisements, and consumer culture. His work became more sexually charged in the late 1960s, culminating in his erotic series, Great American Nudes. Wesselmann’s work increased in scale in the 1970s, as he began painting simple objects on shaped canvases in his Standing Still Life series. Later in the 1970s, he created cut-out compositions in aluminum, enamel, and steel. In the last two years of his life, he returned to the female nude that had become so iconic in his work, producing the Sunset Nude series. Although stylistically similar to the flattened females of his earlier series, the women in the Sunset Nude series appear more abstracted and playful, alluding to the famous nudes of Henri Matisse and Man Ray.