Tom Wesselmann spent much of his young adult life searching for his identity, both as an artist and a human being. Born and raised in a middle class family in Cincinnati, Wesselmann knew he wanted to be an artist, but wasn’t sure how to go about fulfilling his aspirations. “I had no point of view.” he said “I hadn’t seen paintings. I hadn’t seen anything. I hadn’t gone to galleries yet or to museums.”
Finding Possibilities in New York
Wesselmann went to Cooper Union in 1956. He had sold some cartoons while he was in Cincinnati, but had never been in a milieu before where art was talked about, thought about and suffused his every waking moment. “I fell in with the wrong crowd,”he said, “with people who thought and had ideas.”
One of those people was Alex Katz, whom Wesselmann credits with helping him understand the difference between creating a design and creating a painting, and giving him the confidence to pursue a career as a painter.
Matisse and Red, White and Blue
Although school was exciting, as was the art scene in New York, Wesselmann went through a personal crisis. His first marriage had ended, his art was not selling and he was often plagued by anxiety. “I was kind of between engagements — I was between home and wherever I was going.” he said. “I didn’t know where I was. I had no place, no identity, no being. In a sense I was literally adrift in a huge city and lost in this idea of suddenly finding myself a schoolteacher and wondering, “Is this my life? Am I going to be a schoolteacher for the rest of my life?” It was a terrifying prospect — and in a tough school in Brooklyn.”
After graduating from Copper Union, Wesselmann found a book of reproductions of work by Matisse, and things began to fall into place. A dream about the phrase, “red, white and blue” led to his painting his Great American Nude series.
Finding His Own Rhythm
What interested Wesselmann was composition, color and negative space and creating works that were truly his own, with an American sensibility. Wesselmann sought help in therapy to relieve his anxiety, and was able to achieve not only a successful career, but a stable marriage and family life, as well. His wife, Claire, was also one of his models and supporters.
His work became stronger, more vibrant and his began to create “drawings” in steel and aluminum, and use print media for his nude series.
Tom Wesselmann Prints at Surovek Gallery
Although he was in poor health during the last decade of his life, Wesselmann continued to work, focusing on paintings and prints. Available in our gallery are some the finest examples of the vitality of one of America’s most outstanding artists.
Please contact us for information about Nude from the Bedroom, Cynthia in the Bedroom, or any of the other Tom Wesselmann prints for sale at the Surovek Gallery.