Tom Wesselmann's Bedroom Nude Doodle updates the classic art historical genre of female portraiture with the vibrancy and dynamism of Pop. This unique work, executed in 1987, recalls the artist's greatest paintings from his seminal Great American Nude and Still Life series of the 1960s, but this time executed in hand cut aluminum and coated in vibran tenamel. In Bedroom Nude Doodle the exuberant twists and turns of highly chromatic metal seductively trace the outline of the female form. Laid back on her haunches, tussles of blond hair frame the woman's face as she appears to stare out at the viewer, engaging them in direct contemplation. Yet the eyes are absent from the composition, and the only facial features that Wesselmann includes are the most seductive; a pair of full lips portrayed in vivid red. Leaving her face, the eye meanders down across the subject's features, silhouetted in warm orange, until it ends in a flourish of colorful embellishments that denotes a series of objects that adorn the background of the composition.
Unlike classic depictions of the full length female body, Wesselmann's dramatic foreshortening of traditional perspective goes back to some of his earliest paintings. Although he veered away from still-lifes in the mid-1960s, he returned to this motif in 1967 via the Bedroom Paintings. The complex reverberations between body parts and still life imagery opened up new possibilities to Wesselmann. It became among his most enduring and important projects, providing him with a way to explore new methods of constructing pictures. His interest in scale and the spatial relationships between forms significantly motivated this change. In Bedroom Nude Doodle, the objects within the painting do not correlate to a realistic, recessive spatial sense. Instead, sselmann radically enlarged them, jarringly juxtaposing individual elements each asserting themselves in a compressed composition.
Wesselmann's overriding concern for his work's formal qualities stemmed from his formative interest in abstract artists like Willem de Kooning, whose "all- over" painting method presented a taut, shallow space where the viewer was aggressively confronted by mark-making. Although influenced by de Kooning initially, Wesselmann recognized that he needed to establish his own style rather than merely pursue a familiar, reverential path. Wesselmann developed his unique approach by returning to traditional studio practices, specifically the painting of nudes, interiors and still lifes, freeing himself from the influence of his Action Painter heroes whilst maintaining a confrontational power. To make his presence felt, he deliberately decided to do the opposite of everything he loved, exchanging the violent, messy expressionist style for crisply defined shapes that were emphatically figurative. His graphic flair and fluency in drawing, his devotion to the human figure, a dry sense of humor and his ease at communicating with the general public through his imagery all proved important factors in his erotically charged Pop Art. The idea for metal works such as Bedroom Nude Doodle first occurred to Wesselmann in 1983 when he began to wonder if it was possible to do a 'drawing' in steel, as if the lines on the paper had been lifted off and placed directly on the wall. Initially, his idea came before the necessary technology was available to cut steel mechanically, with the precision that he required, so Wesselmann cut the aluminum by hand before painting it in vivid, vibrant colors.
The subject of the reclining nude has been a constant throughout art history. From the concubines that adorned the walls of Roman villas through the romanticized female figures of Peter Paul Rubens and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres to the shockingly modern depictions of female sexuality by ?douard Manet in the nineteenth century, artists have long found inspiration in the female form. Wesselmann's perfectionist imagery takes its cue from the mass-produced photographs found in magazines and billboards, reveling in the banality of modern fantasies about romance and sexual freedom. Yet, by presenting his muses as slick pinups with generic features, Wesselmann continues one of the most productive tropes in art, presenting visually bold and brightly colored images that appeal to the pleasure principle within all of us.