Tom Wesselmann 1931-2004
A new generation of fans has discovered the works of Tom Wesselmann. His images are appearing, with increased frequency, on the shirts, shorts, towels and water bottles of millennial skateboarders and surfers. The Robb Report calls the designs maximum art school chic.
Wesselman was one of the Pop artists whose works were shown alongside Andy Warhol’s and Roy Lichtenstein’s, but his work was figurative, less than abstract and he never got the recognition that others did, although his Still Lifes and Great American Nudes Series, done in the 1960s and 1970s, were very well received.
In the 1980s, when Wesselmann was in his fifties, he began to work in steel and aluminum and return to more classical compositions, paying homage to artists who had influenced him during his formative years as an artist.
Born in Cincinatti in 1931, Wesselmann got a degree in psychology in 1954, spent two years in the army during the Korean War. He began to draw in the army and studied drawing at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. He worked as a cartoonist in Cincinnati for a while before moving to New York in 1958 to attend Cooper Union.
The artists he met, and whose works he saw, in New York inspired him to give up cartooning and concentrate on fine art. Wesselmann spent the next forty years in New York, honing his art and having many successful shows in major galleries.
Wesselmann spent more than forty years in New York and, ironically, was a big fan of country music. He not only loved it, but wrote it. In 2005, a year after Wesselmann’s death, one of his original compositions, “I Love Doing Texas With You”, was featured on the soundtrack for Brokeback Mountain.
During the last ten years of his life, Wesselmann dealt with cardiac problems, but did not let his health interfere with his work.
Some of our recently acquired works by Tom Wesselmann were done during the last decade of his life. He spoke about that time, in a 2003 interview, saying that he was going back to the basics of his work. “That was when I understood I was going back to what I had desperately been aiming for in 1959, and I started making abstract, three-dimensional images in cut metal. I was happy and free to go back to what I wanted: but this time not on de Kooning’s terms, but on mine.”
Tom Wesselmann died in New York in 2004. He was survived by his wife, Claire, whom he met at Cooper Union and was his model and partner for more than forty years, and their three children.
His works are part of the permanent collections of The Museum of Modem Art, the Smithsonian, the Whitney, the Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain in Nice, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi, the
Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Museum of Modern Art in Toyama, Japan and many more.
Eric Twardzik. The 15 Best New Pieces of Spring Menswear to Buy This Week. May 21, 2021.
Sophie Caraan. Tom Wesselmann and NOAH Deliver Collaborative Collection. Hypebeast. May 22, 2021.