Tom Wesselmann - Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale London Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “[The drawings in steel are] an unusual example of the primacy of drawing in painting. The drawing doesn’t support the painting, it is the painting.”
    —Tom Wesselmann

    Suffused with an unmistakable 60s glamour and pop sensibility, in Steel Drawing/Monica Sitting in Robe (Black)​ Tom Wesselmann translates the spontaneity and immediacy of drawing into an original form of art making. Commenced in 1983, Wesselmann’s pioneering series of laser-cut steel drawings continued his career-long reinterpretation of American culture in his distinct aesthetic, demonstrating the verve and ingenuity of Wesselmann’s creative process.


    Reconceiving the Little Great American Nudes on the scale of Great American Nudes, initially beginning with hand cut experiments using aluminium, Wesselmann worked closely with Alfred Lippincott and various firms, relentlessly investing in procedures to fabricate his steel work. Through the project, Wesselmann was steadfast in establishing the importance of gesture, rejecting proposals from technicians to digitally translate and manipulate his lines. An ambition realised as the artist located a facility that was able to digitise his drawings, writing in 1985 Wesselmann noted ‘in my newest work, all in cut-out metal, I must work out the preliminary study with unusual thoroughness because it is technically unpleasant to effect changes once the image is cut out and painted through. Finishing the work is recognising when the potential spelled out in the study had been realised’.i


    An exercise of patience, determination and technical prowess, through Steel Drawing/Monica Sitting in Robe (Black)​, Wesselmann presents just such a unity in his vision. Tracing the confidence of his hand, as Henri Matisse had painted his model in Yellow Odalisque from 1937, Wesselmann confidently outlines the cropped bob and crossed legs of his sitter, effortlessly wrapped in a patterned robe.

    “The prime mission of my art [...] is to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art.”
    —Tom Wesselmann

    Perpetually exploring the beauty of the natural world in all forms, Wesselmann’s work is found in significant permanent collections internationally, including the Tate Modern, London alongside the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. As a leading member of the American Pop art movement, Wesselmann has been the subject of solo exhibitions worldwide, most recently at the Musée Matisse, Nice from February to May 2023.



    i Tom Wesselmann, quoted in Marco Livingstone, ‘Tom Wesselmann, Man of Steel’, Tom Wesselmann, exh. cat., Montreal, 2012, p. 43.

    • Provenance

      Sidney Janis Gallery, New York​
      Galleria Seno, Milan​
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1991

    • Exhibited

      London, Edward Totah Gallery (in collaboration with Galleria Seno, Milan), Tom Wesselmann: Black and Gray, 1991, no. 8, n.p. (illustrated)

    • 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 form a Distinguished Private European collector


Monica Sitting in Robe (Black)

signed, titled and dated 'Tom Wesselmann 89 TOM WESSELMANN - STEEL DRAWING/ MONICA SITTING IN ROBE (BLACK) 1986/89' on the reverse
enamel on laser cut steel
107 x 112.4 cm (42 1/8 x 44 1/4 in.)
Executed in 1986-1989.

Full Cataloguing

£120,000 - 180,000 

Contact Specialist

Louise Simpson
Associate Specialist
+44 7887 473 568

Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale

London Auction 27 June 2024