Tom Wesselmann - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
    Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    With its clean, sunny palette and sensual depiction of the female nude, Cut-Out Nude Study, 1965, is a captivating example of iconic Pop artist Tom Wesselmann’s most celebrated subject matter. This female nude is composed of layers of saturated painted paper placed on a deep cobalt blue ground, while her face remains featureless but for a ruby Mae West smile. Originally conceived as a study for his cut-out nude screenprints on vinyl, Cut-Out Nude Study can also be seen as a precursor to Wesselmann’s innovative cut-out steel works of nude women, begun in 1984. The erasure of facial features is characteristic of Wesselmann’s witty, transgressive works, in which the nude body functions as a cipher for his formalist preoccupations with simplicity of form, flatness and hard-edged fields of color.

    In this regard, Cut-Out Nude Study is in direct lineage with Henri Matisse’s Blue Nude III, 1952, and indeed Matisse figured a great source of inspiration for Wesselmann in his focus on the female nude and turn to decorative paper cutouts. Mirroring Matisse’s approach to structure, Wesselmann uses the cut-out to unite the crispness of the drawn line with the power of pure color. Ultimately, Cut-Out Nude Study recalls Matisse’s famous vision of his practice: “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity…an art which could be for every mental worker…a soothing, calming influence on the mind” (Henri Matisse, Notes of a Painter, Paris, 1908, p. 52). Blending formalist hyperrealism with a Pop Art attitude, Cut-Out Nude Study is a paradigmatic example of Wesselmann’s exceptional oeuvre.

  • 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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Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection


Cut-Out Nude Study

signed and dated "Wesselman 65" lower left
acrylic and paper collage on painted paper
17 1/8 x 21 in. (43.4 x 53.4 cm.)
Executed in 1965.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $268,750

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 15 May | On View at 432 and 450 Park Avenue