Smoker, from An American Portrait 1776-1976
26 x 19 3/8 inches (66 x 49.2 cm.)
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Tom Wesselmann was one of the major artists of the American Pop Art movement, although he never liked his inclusion in it. Reproducing consumer products and everyday objects, his ephemeral figurative imagery of female forms, landscapes and still life departed from the gestural abstraction popular at the time. Wesselmann experimented with assemblage and collage, embarking in wild juxtapositions of mass-produced gadgets that competed for the viewer’s attention, as he intended to ‘make figurative art as spatially and visually aggressive as abstract art’.
The artist is highly acclaimed for his Great American Nude series (1961-1973), depicting sensual nude female figures in patriotic red, white and blue. While painting those series, his compositional focus narrowed down to isolated details, giving birth to the Mouth and the Smoker Study series. This striking print, featuring a close-up shot of a woman’s mouth with red lips and red polished fingernails sparkling in the smoke of her cigarette, is an iconic example of the latter. Being undervalued in relation to his Pop Art peers, Wesselmann holds hidden value for collectors.