In Nude with Bouquet and Stockings, Tom Wesselmann translates the fluid, confident lines of his drawing into steel sculpture, coated in bright enamel. The artist creates a brilliant chromatic arrangement, presenting his iconic nude, lying on blue bedding alongside a bouquet of yellow flowers. In this 1985 work, traditional pictorial motifs are represented in a thoroughly modern and innovative format: according to the artist, "I had to find the right look and feel since they have to be so fresh they can't be tampered with, they have to be drawn in one dash" (T. Wesselmann quoted in S. Hunter, Tom Wesselmann, exh. cat., Galerie Tokoro, Tokyo, p. 7).
While the very first sculptures of 1984 were painted monochrome black, Wesselmann quickly incorporates exuberant color to animate the subject matter. In Nude with Bouquet and Stockings, the artist coats each distinct contour with candy-colored paint, fusing thick line with flat, even color. According to the artist, "In black, it was forcefully a nude. When the same steel drawing was done in color it became a nude more than a drawing. The subject matter became the dominant element" (T. Wesselmann quoted in S. Hunter, Tom Wesselmann, exh. cat. Galerie Tokoro, Tokyo, 1991, p. 7).
With a graphic, simplified silhouette, Nude with Bouquet and Stockings retains the natural quality of his original drawings. The artist aimed for "a tiny, lightning fast doodle, enclosed in its own quickly drawn border, then enlarged to relatively huge size, retaining the sense of spontaneity" (T. Wesselmann quoted in J. Wilmerding, Tom Wesselmann, New York, 2008, p. 147). In 1983, he came up with the innovative idea to "draw in steel"; however, his ideas preceded adequate technology. After a year of researching and developing his method, the artist was able to cut steel with detailed precision, creating works that possessed the nuance and subtlety of his drawn forms.
Just as Wesselmann confounds traditional distinctions between drawing and sculpture, the artist similarly refigures classical pictorial motifs-the nude and the still life-by rendering them in steel. Wesselmann's use of rich, even color recalls his most important influence: Henri Matisse. Like Matisse, Wesselmann was an exceptional colorist and draftsman. In Nude with Bouquet and Stockings, Wesselmann distills vibrant color into loose, effortless arrangements, as if drawing in space.