Tom Wesselmann was an American Pop artist best known for his collages, sculptures, and screenprints that stylized the female figure. Often isolating segments of the body—red lips with a cigarette, a single nipple, or a stylish shoe—his artworks aim was to seize a viewer’s attention. “The prime mission of my art, in the beginning, and continuing still, is to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art,” he once said of his work. Born on February 23, 1931 in Cincinnati, OH, he was drafted into the US Army to serve in the Korean War in 1952. Returning home after the war, he studied drawing at the Art Academy of Cincinnati before working as an illustrator of comic strips and men’s magazines. In 1956, he moved to New York where he attended the Cooper Union.
Soon after graduation, Wesselmann founded the Judson Gallery, along with Jim Dine and Marcus Ratliff. Beginning in the 1960s, with his Great American Nude series, Wesselman drew from Americana and media culture, to produce billboard-scaled paintings in flat bold colors. Like Dine, he was associated with the Pop Art movement but disagreed with being labeled as such. Through the following decades, the artist honed his idiosyncratic style while continuing to live in New York, NY until his death on December 17, 2004. Today, the artist’s works are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among others.