The Most Expensive Tom Wesselmann Nudes in Auction

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April 20, 2020

One of the leading American Pop artists of the 1960s, Tom Wesselmann departed from Abstract Expressionism to explore classical representations of the nude, still life, and landscape, while incorporating everyday objects and advertising ephemera. Wesselmann is best known for his collages, sculptures, and screenprints that stylized the female figure, often isolating segments of the body such as lips, a single nipple, or a stylish shoe. “I don’t depict nudes from any sociological, cultural, or emotional intention,” Wesselmann once explained.

The nude, I feel, is a good way to be aggressive, figuratively. I want to stir up intensive, explosive reactions in the viewers.

Here are the most expensive Tom Wesselmann nudes in auction!

Featured image: Tom Wesselmann - Great American Nude #49 (detail), 1963.

Smoker #5 (Mouth #19), 1969

Created in 1969, Smoker #5 (Mouth #19) is a prime example of Tom Wesselmann's iconic series of shaped canvases that focused on the enlarged and disembodied mouth of an anonymous female while enjoying a cigarette.

At once evocative, sensual, and alluring, the artwork depicts the magnified and isolated hot-red lips, pearl-white teeth and haze of grey smoke wafting from the tip of the cigarette. One of the first developments of this series of nudes, it is characterized by full complexity and graphic intensity.

The painting was sold on March 8th, 2017 at Sotheby's London during their Contemporary Art Evening Auction for $4,106,355.

More info about the work here.

Great American Nude #34, 1962

Featuring a voluptuous nude, Great American Nude #34 is rife with American paraphernalia - a flag, large blue and white stars, a framed picture of what one might assume is a past president, a television set. The title itself is a tongue-in-cheek reference to other generalized ideals of American society.

This iconic work by Wesselmann is characterized by bright, bold Pop colors with crisp outlines, while a simplified female body takes on the generalized historical idea of the nude in Western art history.

The painting was sold on November 15th, 2018 at Christie's New York during their Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale for $2,900,000.

More info about the work here.

Great American Nude #49, 1963

Another work from Wesselmann's Great American Nude series, the number 49 is an early example where the artist embraced the deadpan style of Pop, and retrofit it to the traditional nude and still-life genres.

Intellectually stimulating and visually captivating, it embodies a combination of dense cultural critique and crude artistic expression. Recalling the sultry, odalisque women frequently featured in the works of 20th-century artists like de Kooning and Matisse, it features a female figure, propped and positioned as the object of the artist’s focus.

The work was sold on May 19th, 2017 at Sotheby’s New York during their Contemporary Art Day Auction for $2,500,000.

More info about the work here.

Smoker #21, 1975

Another work from the Smoker series, Smoker #21 embodies Wesselmann's capacity to invoke, manipulate, and intensify a familiar image into an icon of American Pop art. Rendered in monumental scale, it creates an aura of hyper-reality in which the alluring sensuality of the image achieves an unprecedented graphic intensity. As Wesselmann once explained, he began the series as he was intrigued by smoke and coming in close on the mouth.

The work was sold on May 18th, 2017 at Sotheby’s New York during their Contemporary Art Evening Auction for $2,100,000.

More info about the work here.

Great American Nude #26, 1962

Another great example of Wesselman's iconic series, Great American Nude #26 features a reclining pink nude outlined in brushy strokes of rose, set against a blue ground that resembles a folded bedspread. The scene echoes Matisse’s Pink Nude from 1935, at the same time featuring a reproduction of Matisse’s La Blouse Roumaine in the upper left corner. Adopting the strong colors, crisp contours, and exotic imagery of Matisse, Wesselmann found another way around Abstract Expressionism while keeping his subject matter within a fully sanctioned fine art context.

The work was sold for May 15th, 2019 at Christie’s New York during their Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale for $2,000,000.

More info about the work here.

Great American Nude #87, 1967

Created in 1967, Great American Nude #87 is characterized by the unabashed sensuality, accompanied by urgency and immediacy. The nude is set against the vast swath of leopard skin, adding a gaudy and hypnotic intensity. Despite the boldness of his style and the rebellious Pop art credentials, this nude also shows the influence of Matisse in their flowing curves and simple, bright colors.

The work was sold on June 28th, 2017 at Sotheby’s London during their Contemporary Art Evening Auction for $1,715,664.

More info about the work here.

Great American Nude #79, 1965

Yet another unabashedly erotic work from the Great American Nude series, Great American Nude #79 is a confidently executed and powerful juxtaposition of art historical tradition and American Pop Art sensibility. The canvas features a striking blonde bombshell splayed seductively across the canvas, framed by icons of the artist’s famed still life compositions.

The work was sold on April 1st, 2019 at Sotheby’s Hong Kong during their Contemporary Art Evening Sale for $1,694,278.

More info about the work here.

Long Delayed Nude, 1975

This iconic work draws on a recurring theme in Tom Wesselmann's work - the nude - while disseminating distinctive elements of his two other major series, Still Lifes and Bedroom paintings.

Executed over a course of eight years, Long Delayed Nude is characterized by a great formal complexity cleverly blends the various inspirations of Wesselmann's painting during this essential period of construction of his pictorial vocabulary. Wesselmann created an almost filmic scene in a dynamic composition that expresses the extent of his compositional talent.

The painting was sold on December 5th, 2018 at Sotheby’s Paris during their Art Contemporain Evening Sale for $1,637,689.

More info about the work here.

Great American Nude #60, 1965

In this iteration of the Great American Nude, Wesselman depicted a reclining female form set against a radically simplified backdrop constituted of sweeping curves, clean hard edges, and broad, flat blocks of color.

The work shows the artist's uncanny skill as colorist and draftsman through deft handling of color and sinuous lines. Wesselmann also included the American flag, which is wryly hinted at in the form of the five-pointed star motif partially visible in the background behind the model’s head.

The work was sold on May 11th, 2016 at Christie’s New York during their Post-War and Contemporary Art Morning Session for $1,400,000.

More info about the work here.

Study For Drop Out Nude, 1981

Exemplifying Tom Wesselmann’s iconic Pop art aesthetic, Study for Drop Out Nude belongs to the American artist’s celebrated series of Drop-outs, which innovatively employ negative space to invoke the female form. Playing with positive and negative space, abstraction and figuration, Wesselmann succeeds in producing a powerful composition that far surpasses the classic Pop imagery of his contemporary moment.

The work was sold on February 11th, 2020 at Sotheby's London during their Contemporary Art Evening Auction for $1,045,544, becoming the most expensive Tom Wesselmann nude sold in auction - ever!

More info about the work here.

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