Originally working as a cartoonist, Tom Wesselmann was inspired to study fine art by an exhibition of the work of Willem de Kooning. He graduated from Cooper Union in 1959, where he also met his wife and lifelong muse Claire Selley. Shortly after graduation, Wesselmann co-founded the Judson Gallery in a church basement in Greenwich Village, together with fellow emerging artists Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg and Jim Dine.
In 1961, several pieces from his Great American Nude series were exhibited at the Tanager Gallery in New York. It was a series that Wesselmann would continue to develop for over a decade (1961-73), becoming a leading figure in the Pop Art movement in the process.
Blue Nudes, painted just three years before the artist’s death, marks a return to his early exploration of the female figure and pays homage to Matisse’s Blue Nude II (1952). “Matisse was just so incredibly good,” said Wesselmann. “He is the painter I have most idolized.”
Whilst figurative in subject, the studies in Blue Nudes maintain a suggestive, abstract approach. “The prime mission of my art is to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art,” he said.