Tom Wesselmann - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Friday, May 17, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
    David Janis Gallery, New York
    Maxwell Davidson Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the previous owner
    Sotheby's, New York, Contemporary Art Part Two, November 15, 2000, lot 295
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Tom Wesselmann’s evolution as an artist in the 1960s is as impressive to track as it is fascinating. Beginning with his rejection of American-style “action painting” in the early 1960s, Wesselmann’s fondness for figural representation soon began to take center stage. His signature palette of white, red, blue, and gold—a result of a particularly vivid dream—inspired his series of Great American Nudes, premiering at Tanager Gallery in 1961. Wesselmann’s rapid production of the Nudes over the next several years began to form an artistic project with both a beginning and end: the infamous sexual power and cartoonish seduction of the Great American Nude series ceased with #100 in 1973. But even though Wesselmann chose to end this particular series, he continued to anatomize and explore each of his model’s features in even more detail with his shaped canvases and remarkably sensual Mouth series.

    Study for Great American Nude #90, 1966 is not only a paradigm of the America’s sexual revolution that was just beginning, but it is also a portrait of Wesselmann’s own romantic fulfillment with his wife and model, Claire Selley. Wesselmann often testified that he found sex to be an integral part of his life, and we can view the total confidence of the figure in this metaphorical light. Her hair a drape of golden perfection, adjacent to Wesselmann’s color-field portrayal of a scene of the utmost serenity, the model wields her nudity not as a weapon of seduction or power, but as an expression of her indomitable personality. Her tan lines and single blue stocking emphasize Wesselmann’s dedication to a realistic portrait despite the fantastical tendencies of his own style. In the present lot, one of his final Studies for the American Nude, Wesselmann tests us with two kinds of resolve: both his and that of his model.

  • Artist Biography

    Tom Wesselmann

    American • 1931 - 2004

    As a former cartoonist and leading figure of the Pop Art movement, Tom Wesselmann spent many years of his life repurposing popular imagery to produce small to large-scale works that burst with color. Active at a time when artists were moving away from the realism of figurative painting and growing increasingly interested in abstraction, Wesselmann opted for an antithetical approach: He took elements of city life that were both sensual and practical and represented them in a way that mirrored Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol's own methodologies.

    Wesselmann considered pop culture objects as exclusively visual elements and incorporated them in his works as pure containers of bold color. This color palette became the foundation for his now-iconic suggestive figurative canvases, often depicting reclining nudes or women's lips balancing a cigarette.

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Study for Great American Nude #90

Liquitex on paper
18 1/4 x 21 3/4 in. (46.4 x 55.2 cm.)
Signed and dated "Tom Wesselmann 66" lower right.

$175,000 - 250,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York 17 May 2013 10am