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The Pioneer: Tom Wesselmann

"I'd never painted anything before. I was quite content to take other people's work since I didn't care anyway about the subject matter. I approached subject matter as a scoundrel. I had nothing to say about it whatsoever. I only wanted to make these exciting paintings."

Tom Wesselmann

Still Life #35 (1963)

In the art world everyone knows everyone, but in the 60th art society was even smaller than it is nowadays. Warhol, Rosenquist, Oldenburg, and someone whose name is Tom Wesselmann. Everyone knows his works, but not many people know who he is....

Tom Wesselmann was an American artist, one of the Pioneers of the Pop Art movement. He worked in painting, sculpture, and collage.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on February 23, 1931 (actually it is his birthday today). He studied at Hiram College and then suddenly transferred to the University of Cincinnati to study Psychology. Wisselmann even served in Korean war during early 50th, that the time when he started experimenting with drawing cartoons.

After he came back from the war, he earned his degree in Psychology and enrolled to Art Academy of his home city- Cincinnati.

In 1956 Wesselmann moved to New York City after the Cooper Union accepted him.

"New York lit him on fire" - will be his words to his second wife years later.....

Smoker, 1 (Mouth, 12) (1967)

He was drawing cartoons and making collages. In 1961 he began his well-known series: "Great American Nude", consumer culture and politics mixed together: "Red, white, and blue". That series made a lot of noise in the art world and his career "Took off". With Ivan Karp's help, his work was introduced to biggest collectors of the time, it changed Wesselmann's life.

Henry Geldzahler, famous art historian, critic and curator of contemporary art in the late 20th century observed: “About a year and a half ago I saw the works of Wesselmann..., Warhol, Rosenquist and Lichtenstein in their studios (it was more or less July 1961). They were working independently, unaware of each other, but drawing on a common source of imagination. In the space of a year and a half they put on exhibitions, created a movement and we are nowhere discussing the matter in a conference. This is instant history of art, a history of art that became so aware of itself as to make a leap that went beyond art itself”.

"Underrated painter", that is how many critics described him. Maybe it was just difficult to "categorize" his art? Very erotic, simple and clean lines.

Sunset Nude with Matisse Odalisque (2003)

Wesselmann never saw his work as a commentary on Pop Art culture: “I was involved in a visual form and not a literary form. I had no bones about that, so when people began to talk all the time about Coca-Cola or the Campbell Soup cans and all that sort of stuff, I began to get very uneasy because that was subject-matter talk, and I was involved in important, aesthetic matters, I felt, not the subject matter.”

He was a workaholic, even on vacation he still continued painting, he loved his work, it was his passion. Wesselmann was different from Warhol and another artist at the time. Family man, he never craved for fame and celebrity status meant nothing to him.

He passed away on December 17, 2004, in New York City at the age of 73 after complicated heart surgery.

Great American Nude #21 (1961)

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