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New season – New highlights: Tom Wesselmann ”Study for Bedroom Painting #25”


Tom Wesselmann

– ”Study for Bedroom Painting #25”


Tom Wesselmann (1931–2004) moved to New York City after graduating from The Art Academy of Cincinnati. His goal was to become a cartoonist, but after being accepted at The Cooper Union he changed his mind and decided to focus on a career as an artist. During the second half of the 1950s he was initially consumed by ‘Action Painting’, but eventually decided to go in the opposite direction and paint figuratively. It quickly became apparent that Wesselmann was a great talent when he made his major breakthrough with the series Great American Nude, painted using only the colours of the American flag – red, white and blue. Following on from the success of this series Wesselmann changed direction and began to focus on more intimate and detail-oriented paintings, of which the Mouth series from 1965 and the Seascape series from 1966 are good examples


› Signed Wesselmann and dated 67 verso on the stretcher. Oil on canvas 14.5 x 18 cm. The work is registered in the archives of the Wesselmann Estate and Studio. Estimate 1 000 000 – 1 200 000 SEK.


After this Wesselmann created the series Bedroom Paintings, which he continued to work on for some time. In this series fragments and details of various body parts, like a breast or a hand, are juxtaposed with everyday objects such as a telephone, a light switch, a flower or any object you might typically find in a bedroom. The painting up for auction, Study for Bedroom Painting #25 (1967), is an excellent example of the series and, as the piece has been in the same family for decades, the auction offers a rare opportunity to own one of these splendid works.


Tom Wesselmann’s approach was to first make dozens of exploratory studies, then pick the drawings he was most satisfied with and enlarge them into a single study on canvas – such as the painting included in the auction – Study for Bedroom Painting #25. One of the drawings that this painting was based on is today included in MoMA’s collection and bears the same title. From here he would then select the most successful oil paintings to go on to create an even larger painting. We know that Study for Bedroom Painting #25 was enlarged to a bigger painting on canvas.


As a still life the composition is brilliant; the shape of the orange is in perfect harmony with the curves of the breast and together create an intimate image. Such detachment to the human form may at first seem misogynistic or offensive by its removal of the woman’s subjectivity, however in his autobiographical writings, under the guise of his alter-ego Slim Stealingworth, Wesselmann wrote: ‘Personality would interfere with the bluntness of the fact of the nude. When body features were included, they were those important to erotic simplification, like lips and nipples. There was no modelling, no hint at dimension. Simply drawn lines were virtually a collage element – the addition of drawing to the painting. Historically, the nude as a subject has a somewhat intimate and personal relationship with the viewer. Wesselmann’s nudes transcended these characteristics. They abandoned human relationships and as a presence became more blunt and aggressive.’ (S. Stealingworth, Tom Wesselmann, 1980, New York, pp. 23–24).


Truly, Wesselmann transfigured the female nude into a symbol of Pop Art and the sexual liberation of the 1960s. In the same way that Andy Warhol gave the soup can both higher meaning and meaninglessness, Wesselmann’s repeated reiterations of the nude, through the lens of Pop, simultaneously dehumanize the body as well as elevating it. He remained an active painter throughout his life and today we count him among the great Pop Art painters, even though he himself did not want to be part of a specific genre. His work is now represented by the two well–known and established galleries, Gagosian and Almine Rech.


To be sold at Contemporary Art & Design
Viewing October 27 – November 1, Berzelii Park 1, Stockholm.
Open Mon-Fri 11 am – 6 pm, Sat-Sun 11 am – 5 pm.
Auction November 2, Arsenalsgatan 2, Stockholm.
Catalogue online October 20.


Read more about the auction


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Stockholm
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