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Tom Wesselmann (b. 1931)
Tom Wesselmann (b. 1931)

Study for the Great American Nude, #87, 1966

Tom Wesselmann (b. 1931)
Study for the Great American Nude, #87, 1966
signed and dated 'Wesselmann 66' (lower left); titled 'STUDY FOR GAN #87' (on the reverse)
Liquitex and pencil on paper
11 x 16 in. (28 x 40.7 cm.)
This painting hung in Hugh Hefner's bedroom in the Playboy Mansion West, Los Angeles. It was also used as an illustration in the magazine in 1980.
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.
B. C. Holland Gallery, Chicago.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1974.
H. Miller, "Reflections on Erotica," Playboy, December 1980, p. 213.

Lot Essay

Study for Great American Nude #87 is a bold and exuberant celebration of sex and woman. Favoring frankly sexual subjects, Tom Wesselmann made his mark on the Pop Art scene with his famous series of Great American Nudes, which he began in 1961. Lush in color and voluptuous form, Wesselmann's nudes apply the tenets of Pop Art to the traditional subject of the female nude. Often the women are featureless, with only a freshly lipsticked mouth and blonde, brunette or red hair to individualize them. They are anonymous, yet contemporary muses; everyday women elevated to High Art's pedestal of the ideal Woman, by way of the urban billboard advertisement.
Wesselmann's work, however, avoids the irony that pervades much of Pop Art. Although consumer culture is central in some sense to his work (especially his still lifes), in Study for Great American Nude #87 he focuses more on the erotic. Lying in the artist's studio on a leopard-print throw, the woman makes herself totally accessible to the viewer's gaze. Her reclining position is inherently sexual and she projects arousal as she exaults in stretching herself. The lack of any features except her hair (both pubic and on her head), lips and nipples make her appear like a condensed pronographic model -only the attributes of glamour and desire are on display, while personality has been noticeably removed. She is Woman, and desirable as such, and seductively available within the world of her room.

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