Pop Art Porn: Bedroom Paintings of the American Artist Tom Wesselmann
14 december 2020 
29 min. read

Pop Art Porn: Bedroom Paintings of the American Artist Tom Wesselmann

Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004) was an American painter who worked in painting, collage, and sculpture. His colorful works, influenced by fauvism and abstractionism, are great examples of the pop art genre.

Tom Wesselmann portrait

Wesselmann (Wikipedia.org)

Psychology and Cartooning

Wesselmann was born in Cincinnati. He attended Hiram College in Ohio from 1949 to 1951, then enrolled at the University of Cincinnati. His studies were interrupted by enlistment in the army. There he began drawing cartoons. Having returned to the university in 1954, Wesselmann focused on psychology and achieved a bachelor’s degree two years later. At that time, Wesselmann decided to develop his drawing skills to make a career in cartooning and enrolled at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Tom Wesselmann pop art porn

San Francisco Nude with Green Wallpaper, 1959 mixed media and collage on board 6-5/8 x 9-3/4 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann pop art

Little Bathtub Collage #2 1960 mixed media and collage on board 7-1/2 x 5-1/2 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

From Cartoons to Fine Art

After graduation from the Academy, Wesselmann moved to New York City and was accepted there into the Cooper Union, which still exists and specializes in architecture and engineering. There, his interests shifted from cartooning to fine art. This change of artistic focus resulted in his leadership in the Pop Art movement of the 1960s.

Tom Wesselmann nude

Great American Nude #1 1961, mixed media and collage on board 48 x 48 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

The 1960s

Like many representatives of the Pop Art genre, Wesselmann created works incorporating everyday objects. His bright-colored paintings are close in their vividness to abstract expressionism, which he much admired. Great American Nude is his best-known series of that period. Here Wesselmann was undoubtedly inspired by avant-garde painters such as Matisse with his intense colors.

Tom Wesselmann erotic

Great American Nude #8 1961
mixed media and collage on board
48 inches in diameter (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann pop art nude

Great American Nude #29 1962
mixed media and collage on board
36 x 48 inches

Tom Wesselmann great american nude

Great American Nude #35 1962
mixed media, collage and assemblage on board
48 x 60 x 2 inches
Sydney & Francis Lewis Collection, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann

Great American Nude #48 1963
oil and collage on canvas, acrylic and collage on board, enameled radiator and assemblage (including window illumination)
84 x 108 x 34 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann nude art

Great American Nude #52 1963
acrylic and collage on board
60 x 48 inches
Berardo Collection (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann pop artist

Great American Nude #57 1964
acrylic and collage on board
48 x 65 inches
Whitney Museum of American Art (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann posing nude

Great American Nude (blogspot.com)

The 1970s

In the next decade, Wesselmann continued working with the ideas and media he used in the 1960s. The most significant works of these years were his large Still Life paintings representing different objects in an expressionist advertising style. Another remarkable series was the famous “Bedroom Paintings,” depicting naked bodies and genitalia blended in the interior. “Landscape” and “Seascape” series demonstrate the evolution of the artist in terms of media usage and approach to depicting things. Canvases changed their shapes and lines. Every painting became a piece of a puzzle of the world beyond the canvas.

Tom Wesselmann phallus

Bedroom Painting #19 1969
oil on canvas
64 x 90 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann bedroom painting

Bedroom painting (blogspot.com)

Tom Wesselmann breast

Bedroom Painting #11 1969
oil on canvas
54 x 67 inches (wordpress.com)

Tom Wesselmann nipple

Bedroom Painting #26 1972
oil on shaped canvas
75-1/8 x 102-3/8 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

bedroom painting Tom Wesselmann

Bedroom painting oil on shaped canvas

Tom Wesselmann tit box

Bedroom Tit Box 1968-70
oil, acrylic, assemblage and live breast
6 x 12 x 8 1/2 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann seascape

Seascape #27. Almine Rech Gallery (cloudfront.net)

girl eating banana Tom Wesselmann

Girl eating a banana, Almine Rech Gallery (artrabbit.com)

Tom Wesselmann face

Face #1 (blog.daum.net)

Tom Wesselmann seascape tit

Seascape (Tit), 1967
Screenprint on paper
18 × 18 in
45.7 × 45.7 cm (moma.org)

Tom Wesselmann seascape breast

Seascape #23, 1967 (dreamtheend.com)

Tom Wesselmann seascape leg

Seascape #10 1966
molded Plexiglas painted with gripflex
44-1/2 x 58-1/2 x 1-3/4 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Slim Stealingworth

In the 1980s, Wesselmann took the pseudonym Slim Stealingworth and wrote an autobiography documenting his artistic development. While continuing to explore shaped canvases, the painter began working with metal panels to make his paintings more dimensional. Having published an account on his creative evolution, Wesselmann didn’t stop expanding artistic possibilities and exploring new ways of depicting reality. In the 1990s, he produced images using 3-d technologies, which he described as going back to what he had desperately been aiming for in 1959.

Tom Wesselmann pop erotic art

Bedroom Painting #60 1983
oil on masonite and steel
80-3/4 x 117-1/2 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann seascape dropoout

Seascape Dropout (1980s), incollect.com

Tom Wesselmann bedroom

Bedroom Painting #71 1983
oil on shaped canvases
90 1/2 x 101 inches (tomwesselmanestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann boob

Bedroom Painting #67 1983
oil on shaped canvas
94-1/4 x 60 inches (tomwesselmanestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann nude pop art

Great American Nude #88 (blogspot.com)

Tom Wesselmann vivienne

Vivienne 1985
enamel on cut-out aluminum
82 inches (diameter) (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann monica nude with matisse

Monica Nude with Matisse (Var #1) 1987
enamel on cut-out aluminum
57 x 92 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann monica in robe

Monica in Robe with Wesselmann 1992
alkyd on cut-out aluminum
69 x 53 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann monica and matisse

Monica and Matisse Interior with Phonograph (3-D) 1988/93
oil on cut-out aluminum
71 x 47 x 3 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann blue nude

Blue Nude Drawing oil on canvas (10/29/99) 1997/99
oil on canvas
48 x 64 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

The 2000s

In the later years, Wesselmann returned to the female form and also produced a number of abstract works on metal panels. His abstract nudes of the 2000s, which combine 3d figures and shaped canvases, became a manifestation of all discoveries he made during his career as the pop art leader. Wesselmann’s works are exhibited in the USA and England and can be found in many collections all around the world. The latest monograph on Wesselmann’s “Great American Nudes” was released in 2020 by Susan Davidson and The Estate of Tom Wesselmann.

Tom Wesselmann curled blue nude

Curled Up Blue Nude 2001
oil on canvas
49 x 55 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann blue nude art

Blue Nude #21 2001
oil on cut-out aluminum
74 x 69 x 8 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

Tom Wesselmann foursome

Foursome 1998
oil on cut-out aluminum (3 sections)
101 x 158 x 7 inches (tomwesselmannestate.org)

And, last but not least, our favorite sensual series “The Smoker” (1970s)

Tom Wesselmann cigarette

Tom Wesselmann the smoker

Tom Wesselmann smoker

Tom Wesselmann pop art smoker

Tom Wesselmann pop artist

More information on this artist you can find at tomwesselmannestate.org.

Click HERE for another notable ambassador of the pop-art genre who has a sensual premise…!!

Let us know your thoughts on this article in the comment box below….!!

About the author
Darya is a philologist who lives and works in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. She is specialized in Russian literature.


on 14 Dec 2020

Tom Wesselmann is definitely an important addition to the Shunga Gallery, however, I have to disagree with the classification of TW as a porn artist or any of his work as porn; I don't know if at any time Wesselmann himself thought of his work as porn, but, even if that were the case, I consider that irrelevant. Sensual? Yes. Erotic? Not even. Porn? Definitely not. But then again, like the saying goes, if love is in the eye of the beholder, so is eroticism and porn most likely.



on 14 Dec 2020

Well. I could say that I classify porn as sex to sell. Pop-art is definitely connected with advertising that sells. It's a naive but remarkable attempt to turn an advertisement into art, or to introduce the advertising as new art, so commercialized sensuality is close to porn in its' functions, so to say. But, all in all, it was done mainly for the alliteration in the heading. Sometimes things are simple.



on 14 Dec 2020

Thanks for the feedback. It's an interesting definition of porn: "sex to sell" and we all have our own definitions of the words we use, beyond their more or less commonly accepted meaning. I dislike the word "porn" because it has become almost a synonym for many people to "sex" or "anything sexual;" is it all porn, once shown or exposed? Not to me. It's true that sex sells, but not all sex that sells, or sex for sale, is porn. A sex worker sells sex, but, in most cases, is there any porn involved? I don't think so. Laws that pretend to defend morality and protect people from the evils of porn and sex often do more harm than the porn, or the sex involved and the supposedly "regulated" activities said laws want to cover. These laws are just nothing more than a group or groups of people trying to impose their ideas and views of the world of others. There's lots of (soft?) porn disguised as advertising, and lots of explicit sex depictions that are anything but porn. Interesting subject though, that deserves some pondering. However, by the end of the day, I do believe no two people can agree 100% on what's porn, or not. Here's what could be a very interesting experiment: put together a collection of 100 different images, and offer people a number of choices, ex., Erotic [ ] Porn [ ] Both E & P [ ] Neither E nor P [ ] ... then analyze the answers. Everyone's mileage varies. Marijn, any chance you might be interested in doing one? Shunga Gallery visitors could even contribute all sorts of images. (Not sure if your site would allow for a script to be installed to do this, but could be a very interesting experiment.)



on 14 Dec 2020

Thanks JB. Yes, the word porn is a pejorative term for an effect-oriented representation of sex. But we have to "sell" our articles and therefore we opt for curious, sometimes provocative headlines, and the word 'porn' draws attention, and evokes discussion. The content of the article then provides the nuance. Your 'porn experiment' is indeed an interesting suggestion and certainly worth exploring. The blog is not the ideal place to organize this, as no images can be included to the comments but it should definitely be possible on our future forum. Will keep you (and all our followers) posted. Thanks again for your nice contribution...!!

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