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Great American Nude #75
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More about Great American Nude #75

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The title not only says, “nude” but “Great American Nude,” so now we know that this is not your average, every day, posed on a couch classical nude, but something entirely different.

Tom Wesselmann painted and created his Great American Nude series beginning in 1961 with Great American Nude #1, and continued with the idea for almost ten years; eventually the series numbered over 100 pieces.

The many different versions of the Nude series were created using different materials, beginning with acrylic and mixed media for Nude #1, to elaborate collages that used props and objects, and painted molded plastic, which is the case for Great American Nude #75, in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. One of the things that most of Wesselmann’s nudes have in common, what makes them “American” is the red, white, and blue colors that appear in the series; these colors can take the form of actual stars and stripes, a flag, or simply the colors on a wall or other objects in the scene.

Wesselmann would also sometimes add commercial products (sometimes painted, sometimes actual objects) in his works, not only in the American Nudes, but in many of his Still Life series of paintings as well. Nude #75, however, does not have any of these; what it does have, is nipples that are actually three-dimensional, as is the rest of the piece. There is also something the woman in this work does not have: a face; the only facial feature is a mouth with bright red lipstick, another common point on Wesselmann’s nudes.

Wesselmann once stated: “I view art as an aggressive activity…the nude is, I feel, is a good way to be aggressive, figuratively. I don’t depict nudes from any sociological, cultural, or emotional intention.” In other words, he probably just liked to paint nude women. Sometimes, these women were depicted in an abstract fashion, with the barest suggestion of a figure, as in Great American Nude #12, to the much more graphic Great American Nude #91 (still no face though).

Still not enough nudes? Wesselmann also had a smaller format series, Little Great American Nude, then there were the Sunset Nude, Blue Nude, 14th Street Nude, Monica Nude, as well as his Bedroom Painting series, which had…wait for it-nudes! To be fair, the Bedroom series was more suggestive than anything else. Hell, even his Seascape #24 has a breast in it.

Lest one think that Tom Wesselmann was a one-trick pony, that is not at all the case. The Great American Nude series may have been what got him noticed early in his career, but his Still Life paintings, created around the same time period, were also popular, as were his abstract works.

 

Sources

Sources

  1. “Tom Wesselmann, Great American Nude #75, 1965.” Hollis Taggart. https://www.hollistaggart.com/artists/100-tom-wesselmann/works/6543-tom-...
  2. “Biography.” The Estate of Tom Wesselmann. http://www.tomwesselmannestate.org/about/biography/.
  3. Hunter, Sam. "Remembering Tom Wesselmann (1931–2004): And His Alter Ego, Slim Stealingworth." American Art 19, no. 2 (2005): 108-11. Accessed January 8, 2020. doi:10.1086/444484.
  4. McCarthy, David. "Tom Wesselmann and the Americanization of the Nude, 1961-1963." Smithsonian Studies in American Art 4, no. 3/4 (1990): 103-27. Accessed January 8, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/3109018.
  5. Rosenthal, Mark. "The Structured Subject in Contemporary Art: Reflections on Works in the Twentieth-Century Galleries." Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 79, no. 340 (1983): 3-24. Accessed January 8, 2020. doi:10.2307/3795343.
  6. Wesselmann, Tom, and Aquin Stéphane. Tom Wesselmann. Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 2012.
  7. Tom Wesselmann. New York: Mitchell-Innes & Nash, 2016.