Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004)

Pop art artist Tom Wesselmann is one of the most important artists in the pop art movement that originated in the 1950s in Great Britain and the United States. The first pop art artists in the United States included Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

Tom Wesselmann works:

Tom Wesselmann in his studio

Tom Wesselmann in his studio


Early years in Cincinnati, Ohio

American artist Tom Wesselmann was born in 1931 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Wesselmann studied at Hiram College from 1949 to 1951 and later at the University of Cincinnati where he studied psychology. In 1952 he was drafted into the army but served in the state of Ohio. After his dismissal in 1954, he completed his studies in psychology.


American popular culture

In 1959 Tom Wesselmann was together with Jim Dine one of the founders of the Judson Gallery. In this galley, artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Marc Ratliff and Allan Kaprow were free to exhibit whatever they wanted, without any supervision.

Wesselmann had his first exhibition at the Tanager Galerie and later his first solo exhibition where he exhibited his Great American Nude collages. In 1962 he had his first one-man exhibition at the Green Gallery and not much later Ivan Karp of the Leo Castelli Gallery introduced him to the work of Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist

The pop art movement in the United States started in the 1960s as a reaction to the then prevailing current of abstract expressionism painting. The pop art artists used American popular culture imagery in their work to convey a direct message. Besides the artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, artist Roy Lichtenstein has been important for pop art.


Great American Nudes and Bedrooms

He gained some recognition with the Great American Nude series, which began in 1961. These works often contain images of the American founding fathers and American landscapes. He ended this series with the work Great American Nude #100 from 1973.

Other well-known subjects by Wesselmann are the Bedroom faces started in 1976 and of which the 'Big Study for Bedroom Face' is a good example and the Smokers series where he depicts a mouth with a cigarette with smoke from many perspectives.

Wesselmann died on December 17, 2004 after complications from heart surgery. After his death, his work received renewed attention and certainly not unjustly because of the high quality of his work. Yet today the price level of his work is still well below that of his contemporaries Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.