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Tom Wesselmann (USA 1931‑2004)

”Stockinged Nude with Fishbowl”

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary 9 – 12 November 2021

Lot 3 Tom Wesselmann (USA 1931‑2004). ”Stockinged Nude with Fishbowl”. Signed and dated Wesselmann 82 lower right. Pencil and thinned liquitex on rag paper, 102 x 140.5 cm (paper).

This work is registered in the archives of the Wesselmann Estate and Studio.


3.000.000 – 5.000.000 SEK
€ 299.000 – 499.000


Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, #15994, sold in 1982.
An Important Private Swedish Collection, most likely acquired from the above.


Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, ”Recent Work by Tom Wesselmann”, 1‑29 May 1982.


Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, Recent Work by Tom Wesselmann, 1982, illustrated in black and white p. 3.

In context

Tom Wesselmann’s “Stockinged Nude with Fishbowl”, 1982

”When I made the decision in 1959 that I was not going to be an abstract painter, that I was going to be a representational painter, I had absolutely no enthusiasm about any particular subject or direction or anything. I was just starting from absolute zero. I only got started by doing the opposite of everything I loved. And in choosing representational painting, I decided to do, as my subject matter, the history of art: I would do nudes.” (Tom Wesselmann quoted in: Marco Livingstone, “Telling it like it is”, Tom Wesselmann 1959-1993, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Tübingen, Stuttgart, Ed. Cantz, 1994, p. 9).

The reclining female nude is a recurring theme within Tom Wesselmann’s oeuvre, iconic ever since his celebrated Great American Nude series from the 1960s. Like many other emerging artists, Wesselmann was inspired by the booming American economy’s commercial industries in the 1960s, which profited on the people, and aimed to bring a wider perspective into focus. In contrast to the Abstract Expressionists, pop artists engaged with photographic images and everyday objects and by doing so managed to merge art and life. Wesselmann’s motivation behind the Great American Nudes series was to create art as powerful as the Abstract Expressionists, yet offer an alternative to their expression. With the colours of red, white and blue and by adding stars and stripes next to the nudes he echoed society’s “The American Dream”, an expression of the era’s public spirit. “I don’t depict nudes from any sociological, cultural, or emotional intention”, Tom Wesselmann once explained. “The nude, I feel, is a good way to be aggressive, figuratively. I want to stir up intensive, explosive reactions in the viewers.”

Tom Wesselmann poses with his work in the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York City in 1983. 
Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images.
Tom Wesselmann poses with his work in the Sidney Janis Gallery, New York City in 1983. Photo by Jack Mitchell/Getty Images.

The Great American Nude series was the beginning of Wesselmann’s iconic depictions of the nudes, a theme he would return to many times during his life. His Reclining Stockinged Nude series feature a stretched out woman, nude with the exception of her brightly coloured stockings. “Stockinged Nude with Fishbowl” from 1982 bears many similarities to the series of the reclining nudes. However, in the Reclining Stockinged Nude series, the women are painted against an empty background whereas in the present work, the blonde female is laying on a bright lilac couch next to a fishbowl and a lit lamp. The motif reflects on historical artists such as Titian, Manet and Matisse – the latter an important influence on Wesselmann’s fluid forms. Matisse’s odalisques are transformed through the brushstrokes of Wesselmann into colourful, intriguing women of their time. “Wesselmann is attracted not so much by the female nude as by the pictorial or advertising reproduction of that nude. So the subject of these works is not the model as an emblem of female beauty but the abstract image of that subject… even when a subtle sensuality caresses the female forms, playing on the lines and lingering on the shapes, even when a veiled eroticism shows through, recalling the elegance of Modigliani, Wesselmann softens the tension by accentuating the female outline and draining away the vibrancy of colour.” (Charta, Tom Wesselmann, Milan 2003, p. 13).

The women in Wesselmann’s works are always anonymous, portrayed with only female sexual signifiers. The artist wished to devoid his subjects of personalities, giving the young woman in the present work a featureless face with only pink lips. “From the very beginning I did not put faces on them, because I liked the painting to have a kind of action that would sweep through it, and certain things could slow that down… A face on the nude became like a personality and changed the whole feel of the work, made it more like a portrait nude.” (Tom Wesselmann quoted in: Marco Livingstone, “Telling it like it is”, Tom Wesselmann 1959-1993, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthalle Tübingen, Stuttgart, Ed. Cantz, 1994, p. 11). She is resting comfortably on the couch, completely relaxed in her nudity. The light blue stockings emphasise her long legs, and the exaggerated tan lines draw immediate attention to her intimate parts. She stands for a radical openness to nudity and sex, embracing a new portrait of the nude female where the woman is in control of her own body and sexuality.

The present work is a striking contribution to Wesselmann’s intriguing oeuvre. Considered to be one of the leading artists of the American Pop Art, Wesselmann succeeded in exploring classical representations of the nude and still life, while incorporating the everyday objects. He continued to push boundaries throughout his life, establishing him as a master of colour and form. In “Stockinged Nude with Fishbowl”, Wesselmann excels in his brilliant use of colours, creating an almost luminous effect that captivates the viewer. 

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