In Sunset Nude with Red Stockings freedom and confidence in painting reverberates in this prime example from Tom Wesselmann's final series of paintings, the Sunset Nudes. Vibrant colors and lithe figures bookend a career of forceful artistic innovation and creation and Sunset Nude with Red Stockings, executed only a year before the artist's death, stands in testament to the indelible vivacity of his oeuvre.
In the early 1960s, as Abstract Expressionism stood imposingly as the definitive driving force in American art, Wesselmann was among the pioneers of reinterpreting American culture and formulating his unique aesthetic. Later in life, the artist's 1960s exploration of the nude evolves into a refined, bold and fluid style as Wesselmann deconstructs the nude with color and a flattened composition. His nudes are no longer represented strictly as an object of desire but are still a focused study on the traditions of painting. The Sunset Nude series draws inspiration from the traditions of Matisse and Manet but here it is clear that Wesselmann had his own interpretations of the odalisque. "Wesselmann's nudes function as visual correlatives that transfer the sexual charge from the icon of the odalisque to our experience of the painting itself" (London, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, Tom Wesselmann, exh. cat., 2004, p. 6).
Brilliant color and bold forms render a dynamic composition. The blonde hair and tan skin simultaneously create a background simulating sunset and a foreground formulating the figure. Bands of white accentuate the interior glow of the female form as well as the exterior ambiance of the landscape. The composition is flat and yet the elemnts push and pull against one another to create a visually exciting experience. Sunset Nude with Red Stockings is a quintessential example of the culmination of Wesselmann's life-long exploration of nature's beauty, in all its forms.