Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Robert and Sylvia Olnick
Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004)

Bedroom Face with Tulip (3D)

Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004)
Bedroom Face with Tulip (3D)
signed, titled and dated 'TOM WESSELMANN, 1987, "BEDROOM FACE WITH TULIP" 3D' (on the reverse)
enamel on laser-cut aluminum
60 ½ x 72 x 8 ½ in. (153.7 x 182.9 x 21.6 cm.)
Executed in 1987.
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1987
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Cut-Out Metal Paintings by Tom Wesselmann, April-May 1987, no. 9.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Lot Essay

When Tom Wesselmann emerged as an artist in the 1960s, his bold, new type of genre painting immediately earned him a place among Pop art’s standard bearers. Along with Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Roy Lichtenstein, Wesselmann felt that he had little to add to the triumphs of Abstract Expressionism and he instead turned to figuration and the visual potential of popular imagery as a means of finding a new artistic direction. His paintings used bright colors, sharp graphics and prosaic subject-matter to celebrate the shining consumer lifestyle that was the product of the American dream with unashamed idealism and patriotism.

Although associated with Pop, Wesselmann felt his real peers were the Modern painters of the twentieth-century, including Picasso, Juan Gris, and especially Matisse. Similar to those modern masters, Wesselmann's two most prolific subjects throughout his career were the female nude and the still-life. His innovations in still-life began in the early 1960's, when he incorporated actual labels onto a painted surface, creating a surface tension and jarring spatial relationships between objects. Although his subjects stayed the same, he relentlessly experimented with them, re-invigorating a staid genre by using unorthodox media and executing them in a contemporary way that is always unmistakably his own. Wesselmann's most radical re-invention of the genre is in his steel cut drawings such as Bedroom Face with Tulip (3D), in which he creates drawings in space which use the wall as the ground for the composition. Just as in his early work, he is able to use flat elements that paradoxically create a convincing illusion of depth. In Bedroom Face with Tulip (3D), Wesselmann uses only line, shape and color to create an abundant and spatially complex arrangement.

Wesselmann's use of this colour deliberately evokes the kind of sensual desire typically portrayed by his nudes. Here, the woman’s nudity is not shown by suggested by the work’s title which indicates the scene is a bedroom, and also by the reclined position of her head. Two semi-circles of blue hint at the pillow that she lies her head upon and are contrasted in direction and color by the swoops of red that indicated a curtain. The achievement here is in the different ways that Wesselman uses the positive space of the metal in equal balance to his use of the negative spaces in between cuts. Both are activated to make the picture a compositional masterpiece. One of the largest and most ambitious cut-outs ever executed by the artist, it evokes his breakthrough works of the early 1960's, as well as the reclining nudes and still-life paintings of his most-revered artist, Matisse.

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