Tom Wesselmann - New Now London Wednesday, December 7, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gift from the artist to Carroll Janis and Wendy Worth, New York
    Private Collection
    Phillips, New York, 15 May 2015, lot 194
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, David Janis Gallery, Tom Wesselmann: Paintings, Steel Drawings, Works on Paper and Maquettes, 27 February - 24 April, 2010

  • Catalogue Essay

    From Smoker#7 is not only a depiction of velvety red lips exhaling smoke. It is also a demonstration of Tom Wesselmann’s striking virtuosity in manipulating basic and familiar images into abstact and unsettling ones. In the Smokers series, developed from the late '60s as an outgrowth of the Nudes and continued through to the early 70’s, Wesselmann shifts his focus on to one specific part of the woman’s body, thus emphasizing the element of fetichism present in his oeuvre since the earlier works. The image the viewer is confronted with is one of an undeniable intimate sensuality. The forms are so clear, bold in their contrasting colours and so vividly realistic that it looks like the ashy end of the dangling cigarette could drop, at any moment. Nevertheless through representing a disembodied mouth, Wesselmann objectifies the woman and abstracts the image of her to a completely anonymous and remote one; offering us yet another symbol for the modern consumeristic age. Peculiarly enough, despite this intention of escaping the reality and realism, in drawing and tackling the smokers Wesselmann took his cue from photography, in particular from photographs of his friend Daniele smoking.

    As a former cartoonist for men's magazines, Tom Wesselmann’s main interest thoughout his career was not to draw attention to the subject but, ‘to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art’. Wesselmann reintroduces the nude in art. Yet he overloads it with a blatant eroticism whereby the artist reduces the female sitter to her elementary components and hence is able to concentrate on the formal inner qualities of the image. As the present lot brilliantly attests, Wesselmann’s ideal female form is a post-Abstract Expressionist’s one combined with the visual power of Pop constantly accompanied by an ironic guiding thread.

  • 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.

    View More Works


From Smoker #7

signed and annotated 'For Wendy and Carrol Tom Wesselmann' lower edge
pencil, Liquitex on 100% rag paper
33.5 x 31 cm (13 1/4 x 12 1/4 in.)
Executed in 1976.

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £93,750

Contact Specialist
Simon Tovey
Head of Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 8 December 2016