TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)
TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)
TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)
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TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)

Seascape #29

TOM WESSELMANN (1931-2004)
Seascape #29
signed and dated 'Wesselmann 67' (on the overlap); signed again, titled and dated again 'TOM WESSELMANN 1967 SEASCAPE #29' (on the stretcher)
oil on shaped canvas
108 ½ x 67 ¼ in. (275.6 x 170.8 cm.)
Painted in 1967.
Estate of the artist, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2013
New York, Yvon Lambert Gallery, Tom Wesselmann: Drop-Out, December 2007-January 2008, no. 5 (illustrated).
Further details
Please note that this work is included in the Tom Wesselmann Digital Corpus published by the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, and will be included in their forthcoming Tom Wesselmann Digital Catalogue Raisonné.

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Lot Essay

Commanding in scale, Tom Wesselmann’s Seascape #29 is a monumental testament to the artist’s enduring iconography and the expansiveness of its possibilities. The silhouette of a nude woman stands proudly before this elysian landscape, her form visible from the farthest depths of each vista. With the female form manifesting such a prominent role in the artist’s oeuvre, here the figure feels more contemplative. Though her presence commands nearly a third of the picture plane, her form is not domineering. Rather, she stands akin to a reliquary statue, mirroring the calm of the atmosphere within which she has been placed.

In the present work, Wesselmann employs a delicate balance of painted space and illusory forms. The careful curvatures of the subject’s breast are replicated in the flowing valleys of the clouds along the horizon. There is a surreal tenderness to Wesselmann’s painted landscape, a dreamful purity that is enhanced only by the inclusion of the natural human form. A clear blue sky fills the upper register of the painted canvas, so brilliant that it both illuminates the endless atmosphere in the beyond while also invoking the depths of a grand sea. The compelling addition of a soft rouge in the subject’s nipple perhaps nods to the absence of a hazy sun; here, the woman’s figure merging with nature and assuming it’s missing gaps.

Along the bottom of the picture plane, Wesselmann utilizes a rendered palette of soft grays, blues and greens to distinguish an environment in the far distance. Absent of clear detail, the blurriness of Wesselmann’s ‘beyond’ may be considered reminiscent of Richter’s abstracted landscapes. However, here, the artist’s use of blurring establishes an identifiable serenity. Though the sea is referenced prominently in the work’s title, it is represented only in the artist’s use of a thin blue passage. Allusions to the expansiveness to the sea, thus, are mirrored in the subject’s boundless form and in the richness of the artist’s choice of pigments.

Wesselmann uses both the painted canvas and negative space to dictate the conditions of his composition. Though traditionally heralded for his sumptuous canvases, it is in Wesselmann’s mastery of physical space that is perhaps most captivating. The artist’s facility over negative space, and his ingenuity in manipulating the standard rectangular canvas to elicit form from nothingness, is a testament to the artist’s skill and the enduring strength of his nude motifs. Absent of a clear, complete subject, viewers are allowed space to ponder who may exist beyond the picture plane. In engaging the viewer’s gaze beyond the space of the traditional canvas, Wesselmann radicalizes the rules of experiencing an artwork, encouraging viewers to consider painting as absent of clear limitations. As the subject of the present work towers over viewers, so too does this notion of a painting that simply cannot be bound only to canvas. Utterly engrossing on planes of composition, color, scale and concept, Tom Wesselmann’s Seascape #29 is a tremendous declaration of space and the captivating notion of depth that an artist at his prime may achieve on a two-dimensional surface.

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