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Tom Wesselmann Prints

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Tom Wesselmann was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on the 23rd of February, 1931. After attending university, Wesselmann served in the Korean War. During that time, he began dabbling in drawing cartoons. After coming back and earning a degree in psychology from Cincinnati University, he went on to pursue art from the Art Academy in Cincinnati followed by the Cooper Union in New York City. He finished his studies in the late 1950s.

After finishing his studies, he went on a trip which was about landscape painting to the rural area of New Jersey where the Cooper Union was holding a Green Camp. This is when he was struck with the realization for the first time that he didn’t necessarily have to pursue a career as a cartoonist, he could also become a painter.

With two other artists, Wesselmann founded the Judson Gallery. Along with showing a lot of two-man exhibitions at the Gallery with fellow artist Marc Ratliff, Wesselmann also started to teach art in schools side by side. This was before he started to paint a series that got him recognition from every corner of the world.

The series that brought him world fame – Great American Nude was started by him in 1961. He stuck to the colors red, white and blue while painting it and also used colors that could be seen to have patriotic inferences like gold and khaki. The theme of the series was deeply patriotic including photos of the American landscape and those of the founding fathers of the nation.

While Wesselmann has been seen as an icon for the Pop Art Movement because of the similarity his aesthetic style of painting bore to other artists belonging to the same movement, he himself never cared much about being tagged one. He believed that belonging to one group or tagging oneself meant over-emphasis on the material used and less on the art itself.

In 1963, Wesselmann married his fellow student from the Cooper Union, Claire Selley. She was also his friend and model. The couple had a son and two daughters. Wesselmann was a big fan of country music and loved to travel.

Having completed the Great American Nude series in 1970s, he started working on the ‘Standing Still Life’ paintings. These paintings emphasized objects used in everyday life in sizes that were larger than life, for instance, toothbrushes and keys. Another series titled the ‘Smokers’ featured hands and lips that had been disembodied. Much later when Wesselmann had matured as an artist, he started to explore sculpture as well as metalwork.

In the last couple of years before Wesselmann died because of a heart disease, his output was constant, even though his condition had been steadily worsening. His style of painting also underwent a change during this period. Earlier, he either painted figuratively or a little later on he used abstract styles. But now, the fine line of difference between the two styles had diminished in his work.

Important paintings from one of the last series that he worked on, the Sunset Nudes, were exhibited at the Robert Miller Gallery in New York, after his death, in April 2006.

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