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  • Provenance

    Sidney Janis Gallery, New York; Green Gallery, New York; The Collection of Samuel and Luella Maslon

  • Exhibited

    New York, The American Federation of Arts, The Figure-International, September 1965 - September 1966

  • Literature

    American Federation of Arts, ed. The Figure-International, 1965, cat. no. 34 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay


    Pop artist Tom Wesselmann’s celebrated Great American Nudes series began in 1961 as an afterthought of a dream concerning the phrase “red, white, and blue.” From there, he decided to paint his nudes in a palette limited to those colors and any colors associated with patriotic motifs such as gold and khaki. By 1964, he began the shaped nudes, such as the present lot, which took their entire shape from the silhouette of the body but cropped as though it were still within a rectangular painting.The works from this series produced a visually stunning foray into the artistic motifs explored in an American society just before the explosion of the sexual revolution where nudity in publications was still illegal and sexual freedom was a topic only whispered about.
    Despite the controversial nature of the artist’s Nudes, the artist continued to push the boundaries of manipulating the female form into sensual abstraction. At times, he struggled deeply with how to create works that penetrated beyond the simplicity of a beautiful, naked woman into depicting a bold, mystical creature made up entirely of line and form. As Silm Stealingworth stated in his seminal monograph Tom Wesselmann, “The artist was conflicted on how to handle his nudes- whether to make them more abstract or more realistic.Wesselmann lends his talents to a gradual abstraction, the figure of the nude is one large shape with few details.The mass dominates the sense of realness.The figures dealt primarily with their presence. Almost all faces were left off because the nudes were not intended to be portraits in any sense. Personality would interfere with the bluntness of the fact of the nude. When body features were included, they were those important to erotic simplification, like lips and nipples. There was no modelling, no hint at dimension. Simply drawn lines were virtually a collage element- the addition of drawing to the painting. Historically, the nude as a subject has a somewhat intimate and personal relationship to the viewer. Wesselmann’s nudes transcended these characteristics. They abandoned human relationships and as a presence became more blunt and aggressive.” (S. Stealingworth, Tom Wesselmann, 1980, NewYork, pp. 23-24).

  • 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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32

Study for Great American Nude # 75

1965
Acrylic and pencil on paper.
13 x 12 1/8 in. (33 x 30.8 cm).
Signed and dated “Wesselmann 65” upper left; dated “3/65 upper right.

Estimate
$150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $140,500

Contemporary Art Part I

13 Nov 2008, 7pm
New York