Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sam Francis – Space and Color

Sam Francis - Trietto II - Aquatint Print
“Painting is about the beauty of space and the power of containment.” – Sam Francis

Sam Francis with Wallse Ting in studio
American Abstract Artist Sam Francis was late to start his successful and brilliant career as a painter and printmaker. While serving as a pilot in the United States Air Force during WWII, Sam Francis suffered an injury that hospitalized him for several years. While recovering, Sam Francis began to paint over the side of his hospital bed to escape the mundane routine of the hospital as well as the pains of his aching body. Developing a love for art and finding an artistic voice was healing for Sam Francis, and the art created in this time had an astonishing remedial effect on Sam Francis’ mental and emotional state.

Sam Francis - Untitled SF345
Sam Francis’ experience as a pilot had a unique bearing on his paintings and prints, which often utilized aerial perspectives to communicate the silence of the skies. Sam Francis’ aerial approach to the canvas became paramount to his methodology as a painter, as well as a signature style for Sam Francis.

During the late 1940s, Sam Francis began producing and exhibiting his earliest abstract artworks. Francis was initially influenced by the work of the Abstract Expressionists, like Mark Rothko and Arshile Gorky, and Sam Francis incorporated many of their techniques and ideas in his art. Despite this influence, Sam Francis’ art was also in close dialogue with modern and contemporary French art. His references ranged from the Water Lilies of Claude Monet, which inspired many of Sam Francis ideas about atmosphere and space, to Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse, whose conceptions of pure color were particularly resonant with Francis.

Sam Francis - Pasadena Box (Plate 8)
Lithograph Print
While traveling to Japan during the 1950’s, Sam Francis became interested in Japanese calligraphy and art, particularly the Japanese use of negative space. Sam Francis was acutely aware of the dialogue between color and space on the canvas. In many of Sam Francis’ prints and paintings from the 1960’s the brushwork is relegated to the outer edges, leaving vast empty spaces in the center of each art piece. The negative space, or silence within Sam Francis’ art is as meaningful as Francis’ fluid brushwork of radiant color.

“Color is a kind of holy substance for me,” Francis said. “It’s the element in painting which I am most fascinated with. It is an element of painting which overcomes me. . . . Color in a way is a receptacle for a feeling and a way for you to hold it until understanding arrives or meaning is extracted.” Sam Francis’ artwork further investigated perceptions of light and color by contrasting glowing jewel tones with large areas of white. White in Sam Francis’ art does not function simply as a ground against which he applies color. Rather, the white areas are dynamically engaged in active communication with the colors. For Francis each color had a symbolic value: white corresponded to the infinite, blue to the cosmos and water, and yellow to the sun.

Sam Francis - Untitled - Monotype
Considered one of the premier colorists of the twentieth century, Sam Francis is best known for dramatic, lushly painted works comprised of vivid pools of color, thinly applied. Sam Francis has also been compared to Color Field artists on the basis of large, fluid sections of paint that seem to extend beyond the confines of the pictorial surface. Sam Francis’ art is a dynamic and sophisticated juxtaposition between color and space, a luminous conversation played out in strokes of lush color.

Visit our website for more available prints by Sam Francis.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A smARTer Investment

Jeff Koons, Cracked Egg (Red), 2008
If you’d added a few fine artworks to your portfolio over the last few years, instead of all those bank stocks, your retirement nest egg might be looking a little different right now.

Let’s face it, the stock market rollercoaster, particularly in the last month has left the average investor nauseous and contemplating getting off the ride all together (if not already). In many cases the market volatility has driven investors to alternative investment markets like gold and Fine Art.

Fine Art has been an attractive investment for centuries and is becoming increasingly recognized as it has outperformed more conservative investments over the last few decades. It is an alternative investment earning capital gains rather than a dividend.

Indeed, for the last ten years, the price index of all Fine Art works sold more than once worldwide has produced a nearly 11% annualized return, outperforming the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of large cap stocks and most other asset classes, including bonds and commodities.

Marc Chagall, Multiflore, 1974
Fine Art, including paintings, sculpture, original prints and photography is a very interesting long-term asset class. Indeed, investment-grade art enjoys a low correlation with other asset classes, including stocks and bonds, strengthening its case as a candidate for portfolio diversification. And some maintain they can act as an inflation hedge, since “real assets” (like gold) tend to rise in value while the value of money falls.
Since the end of World War II the value of Fine Art works has appreciated enormously. Quality works of art have proved to be a remarkable store of value. This is predominantly due to increasing rarity caused by an expanding demand from museums and collectors, and dwindling supplies.

Before you even think about putting down money, however, it’s important to educate yourself on the forces affecting the art market overall. The best advice is to talk to seasoned collectors and professionals in the industry. Go to the galleries and ask questions. Get involved with the museum and befriend the curator. An educated consumer is going to be best equipped to maneuver in this marketplace.

If, as it is more likely the case, you want to invest your money in something that you also like the look of,
(which I recommend!), make sure that your heart doesn’t rule your head and you buy something that looks pretty but is unlikely to ever accrue in value or worse yet decrease.

On that note, beware of galleries and dealers promoting artists with niche bubble markets. There is a reason we have not seen some very “popular” commercial artists in any major Contemporary Museums – the following of these types of artists is purely promotional, and their value is backed by the people marketing them, not by an actual global market. Over time these types of mega-marketed commercial artists will fall victim to the tastes of the market and will be virtually worthless.

Jim Dine, Fortress of the Heart, 1981-82
It is important to note that the high end of the market is not at the mercy of public taste. The art market has its blue-chip investments (museum artists) and these quality investments will bring a reliable return. Of course, the entry point can be higher. Artwork that emanates from more mature markets, such as Museum Class Master Paintings, can cost anywhere from $10,000 to many millions depending on the artist.

Picasso Linocuts featured at the MOMA 2009
The alternative is the investment in Museum Class Master Graphics or Original Prints with an entry point in the $1,000 level. Of course even great Prints are now expensive, but I’d recommend those! The best ones generally increase in value the most. From a return on investment standpoint, it’s also good advice to buy the best piece you can afford. The market has become much more selective, with an emphasis on quality.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sonia Delaunay Biography: Textiles, Design, and Prints

Sonia Delaunay Original Print -
Composition with Semi-circles

Artist Sonia Delaunay-Terk was born in present day Ukraine on November 14th, 1885 under the surname Stern. At a young age Sonia Delaunay moved to St. Petersburg, where she was cared for by her mother's brother, Henri Terk, a successful and affluent Jewish lawyer. Henri Terk and his wife Anna adopted Sonia Delaunay in 1890 when she assumed the name Sonia Terk. Sonia Delaunay-Terk received a privileged upbringing with the Terks, traveling widely throughout Europe where Sonia Delaunay was introduced to art museums and art galleries.

Sonia Delaunay Etching -
Composition with Circles
When Sonia Delaunay was 18, she was sent to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe, Germany. Sonia Delaunay studied in at the Art Academy until 1905 when she decided to join the Modern Art movement at Montparnasse in Paris. Sonia Delaunay was deeply influenced by the post-impressionist art of Van-Gogh, Gauguin, and Henri Rousseau as well as the artists of the Fauves group including Henri Matisse.

During Sonia Delaunay’s first year in Paris Sonia Delaunay met, and married, German homosexual art gallery owner Wilhelm Uhde. It is assumed that Sonia Delaunay’s marriage to Uhde was a marriage of convenience to escape the demands of her parents, who disliked her artistic career. Through Uhde's gallery Sonia Delaunay gained entrance into the Parisian art world and benefitted from his connections, and Uhde masked his homosexuality through his public marriage to Sonia. Through her connections Sonia Delaunay met prominent artists of the modern art movement including: Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Georges Rouault, and Maurice de Vlaminck.

Sonia Delaunay met painter Robert Delaunay in early 1909. Sonia and Robert became lovers in April of the same year and it was decided that Sonia Delaunay and Uhde should divorce. The divorce was finalized in August 1910. In November of 1910 Sonia and Robert Delaunay were married. Sonia Delaunay was pregnant with their son Charles who was born on January 18, 1911. Sonia Delaunay made a patchwork quilt for Charles' crib, which is now in the collection of the Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris. Sonia Delaunay’s quilt was created spontaneously and exemplifies Sonia Delaunay’s use of geometry and color in her textiles, paintings, and original prints.

Sonia Delaunay Aquatint -
Composition with Triangles
Contemporary art critics recognize this as the point where Sonia Delaunay moved away from perspective and naturalism in her art. Robert & Sonia Delaunay became associated with the development of Orphism, a highly abstract art movement which paralleled the geometry of Cubism but with a much brighter color palette. It is said that artist Paul Klee was so taken with Sonia Delaunay’s’ patterning of squares from a 1912 illustrated book, that they became an enduring feature in Klee’s own art.
During the 1910-1920s, Sonia Delaunay focused on bringing this new artistic lyricism into the world of design, transforming Art Deco fabrics into vibrant high fashion clothing, wall coverings, furniture textiles as well as, theatrical costumes. In 1917 Sonia Delaunay met Sergei Diaghilev, and Sonia Delaunay designed costumes for his productions of Cleopatra and Aida.
The Russian Revolution brought an end to the financial support Robert & Sonia Delaunay received from Sonia’s family in Russia, and a different source of income was needed. Sonia Delaunay made clothes for private clients and friends, and in 1923 created fifty fabric designs using geometrical shapes and bold colors, commissioned by a manufacturer from Lyon. Sonia Delaunay’s customers included Nancy Cunard, Gloria Swanson, Lucienne Bogaert and Gabrielle Dorziat.

In the 1930s, Sonia Delaunay returned her focus on painting, joining the Abstraction-Creation group in seeking to create an art based upon non-representational elements, often geometrical, and continuing to focus on color as central to painting. The group was trans-national, and including among its members: Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth, Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. In 1937 Sonia & Robert Delaunay collaborated on a mural for the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne.

Sonia Delaunay Print -
Geometric Composition
In 1941 Robert Delaunay died of cancer. After Robert death, Sonia Delaunay continued to work and exhibit regularly as a painter & designer, turning often to printmaking including: etchings, lithographs, and pochoirs prints. In 1963 Sonia Delaunay donated 58 of her own works and 40 of Robert Delaunay’s to the Musee National d'Art Moderne, Paris. Sonia Delaunay became the first woman ever to be exhibited at the Louvre during her lifetime when the museum mounted an exhibition of the works in 1964.

In 1966 Sonia Delaunay printed Rythmes-Couleurs with 11 of her gouaches produced as pochoir prints, with texts by Jacques Damase. In 1969 Sonia Delaunay printed Robes poemes, also with texts by Jacques Damase containing 27 Sonia Delaunay prints.

Sonia Delaunay-Terk died in 1979 at the age of 94 with no regrets in her life.

Sonia Delaunay’s work in modern design included the use of geometric abstraction in the integration of furniture, fabrics, wall coverings, clothing, prints, lithographs, and etchings.

Sonia Delaunay was the subject of a recent Exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.

Select Museum Collections:
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, DC
Tate Gallery, London
Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid
Louvre, Paris

Monday, April 25, 2011

David Hockney Vintage Posters - A Colorful Timeline

David Hockney, Mount Fuji and Flowers,
Offset Lithographic Poster
Artist David Hockney has continued to be an innovative artistic force since the beginning of his career in the 1960s. Although Hockney has always denied being a part of the Pop Art Movement, Hockney is often included under this heading because of the vibrancy of his palette, though he never adopted the iconographic subject matter of the Pop Artists. David Hockney's affiliation with the Pop Artists is mostly by association, and seems more to do with his friendships with peers like Andy Warhol, whom he met in New York in 1961, than Hockney's artwork.

David Hockney, Paper Pool #7, Off-Set Lithographic Poster
Taking a look at the time-line of David Hockney's exhibition, museum, and art posters, we get a good sense of the development Hockney's unique aesthetic and painting style over the years. After completing his training at the Royal College of Arts in London, Hockney's art had adopted a deliberately rough and rudimentary style which Hockney owed a great deal to artists Jean Dubuffet and Francis Bacon. Hockney was in a phase of rapid self-discovery on both artistic and personal levels. David Hockney was coming to terms with his own sexuality while at the same time searching for an artistic style.
David Hockney, A Bigger Splash,
Off-Set Lithographic Poster
After his first trip to Los Angeles in 1964, Hockney returned to England set to work on a series of prints and paintings that reflected his American experiences. David Hockney began to incorporate acrylic paint in his art, and Hockney created his first series of stylized Southern Californian landscapes as well as his first swimming pool paintings. One of Hockney's most noted swimming pools is "A Bigger Splash," 1967, which is now a part of the permanent collection of the Tate Gallery, London and the title of a documentary about Hockney that was released in 1974. David Hockney had always fantasized about living in Los Angeles: “Within a week of arriving there in this strange big city, not knowing a soul, I'd passed the driving test, bought a car, driven to Las Vegas and won some money, got myself a studio, started painting, all within a week. And I thought, it's just how I imagined it would be.” In 1978 David Hockney experimented with a process of moulding colored paper pulp, producing a series of twenty-nine Paper Pools. Hockney's "Paper Pools" were greatly influenced by Van Gogh.

David Hockney, Photocollages, Off-set Lithographic Poster

David Hockney, XVI RIP Arles,
Offset Lithographic Poster

During the 1970's David Hockney made his first photomontage or photo collage artworks, which Hockney referred to as "Joiners". David Hockney was greatly inspired by the art of Pablo Picasso particularly Picasso's Cubist Period, and Hockney saw photography and his Polaroid composites as a new investigation of Cubism and pictorial space. David Hockney explored the use of the camera, making composite images of Polaroid photographs arranged in a rectangular grid. Later Hockney used regular 35-millimetre prints to create photo-collages, compiling a 'complete' picture from a series of individually photographed details. In 1985 Hockney lectured on his photographic experimentation at the prestigious Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles.

David Hockney, Parade,
Off-set Lithographic Poster

During the mid 1970's Hockney embraced the challenge of a new medium, creating a number of designs for various Theatrical productions in London and New York. As a young child, David Hockney had developed an obsession with opera when he first saw the Carl Rosa opera company's production of La Bohème, and Hockney was ecstatic to bring his two passions together. From 1975 - 1993 Hockney produced set and costume designs for:
'The Magic Flute' 1978, 
'Parade' 1981, 
'Oedipus Rex' 1981,
'Tristan und Isolde' 1986,
'Die Frau Ohne Schatten' 1991,
and 'Turandot' 1993.

David Hockney, A Bigger Grand Canyon,
Offset Lithographic Poster

Nichols Canyon
Lithographic Poster

Continuing to be influenced by American culture and the natural landscapes found in California and the Western United States, David Hockney's vivid palette became more striking and beautiful and in 1980 David Hockney painted "Nichols Canyon" after a well known canyon in the Hollywood Hills. In 1982 David Hockney traveled with friends through the American West and Hockney was inspired to create a large photocollage of the Grand Canyon. "A Bigger Grand Canyon" is one of David Hockney's most celebrated artworks, rich with brilliant colors that capture the cascading landscape of the Arizona desert.

David Hockney, Hotel Well III,
Offset Lithographic Poster

During the 1980's David Hockney's palette became imbued with an array of saturated and vibrant colors making Hockney's artwork both dramatic and enticing. During a trip down to Mexico City, David Hockney was moved by the courtyard landscape of his Hotel in Acatlan, Mexico, and enthusiastically created a number of original prints known as the "Moving Focus" series. The "Moving Focus" print series from the mid 1980's is the culmination of Hockney’s experiments with Cubism. The constant shifting focus in Hockney's "Hotel Well III," brings together multiple and simultaneous perspectives, clearly feeding off of Hockney's work with photography and his "Joiner" pieces. Fascinated by the Hotel Well and courtyard, David Hockney revisited the subject in multiple lithographs, incorporating the passage of time and light in the concept of perspective as seen in artworks like "Hotel Acatlan, Second Day" and "Hotel Acatlan, Two Weeks Later."

David Hockney, Hotel Acatlan Second Day, Offset Lithographic Poster

After working with California master printer Ken Tyler in the 1980s making etchings and lithographs, David Hockney explored ways of creating art with color photocopiers in 1986. “The works I did with the copying machine ...were not reproductions,” Hockney said later, “they were very complex prints.” Subject to the same curiosity about new technical methods, David Hockney began to experiment with the fax machine, and in 1989 sent work for the Sao Paulo Biennale to Brazil via fax. David Hockney began experiments using computers, composing images and colors on the screen and having them printed directly from the computer disk without preliminary proofing. David Hockney has had major retrospectives of his art in New York, Los Angeles and London. Technical experimentation has continued to inform and develop the art of David Hockney and his most recent artworks have been created on Hockney's iPad. David Hockney primarily works in his art studio in the Hollywood Hills near Los Angeles, California, where Hockney has lived permanently since 1978.

For more information on David Hockney Art Posters please visit our website:

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Perro de Luna, 1973 LITHOGRAPH
Rufino Tamayo’s legacy to the history of art is truly found in Tamayo’s oeuvre of graphic prints, in which Tamayo cultivated every technique. A truly innovative print-maker, Rufino Tamayo’s graphic work was produced between 1925 and 1991 and includes the mediums of woodcuts, lithographs, etchings, aquatints, and mixografia prints.

Niña, 1981 MIXOGRAPH
In the early 1970's, printer Luis Remba approached Rufino Tamayo to produce a series of lithographs. Although Tamayo was interested, he made it clear that he was looking for new horizons within the medium - particularly seeking ways to get more volume and texture into his original prints. Together Luis Remba & Rufino Tamayo expanded the technical and aesthetic possibilities of the graphic arts by developing a new genre of multiples, which they named Mixografia.

Dos Hermanos, 1987 MIXOGRAPH
The Mixografia technique is a unique fine art printing process that allows for the production of prints with three-dimensional texture. The quality of a Mixografia print is similar to that of a fresco or bas-relief, in which the surface of the paper has a kind of sculptural depth. The technique not only registered the texture and volume of Rufino Tamayo's design, but it also granted Tamayo the freedom to use any combination of solid materials in its creation. Rufino Tamayo was delighted with the Mixografia process, and Tamayo created some 80 Original Mixographs over his lifetime.

Due to the inability of commercial paper to withstand the stress of the Mixografia three-dimensional printing technique, a more resilient handmade paper was also invented. The paper of a Mixografia print has a heavy and thick consistency that further enhances the sculptural three-dimensionality of a Mixografia print.

Relief Sculpture from Pelenque Ruins
Greatly influenced by his Mexican and Zapotec heritage, much of Rufino Tamayo’s artwork, particularly Tamayo’s Mixografia prints, illustrate the same weight and feel of Pre-Columbian stone reliefs and sculptures. Rufino Tamayo became interested in Pre-Columbian art as early as 1926, when Tamayo became the head of the department of ethnographic drawing at the National Museum of Archaeology in Mexico City.

Nocturno, 1975 ETCHING
Most of the compositions in Rufino Tamayo’s original graphics are extremely simple yet highly inventive in their technicality. Tamayo was known for taking an elementary drawing and filling it with structural elements, textures and colors obtaining striking etchings, lithographs and mixographs created with eloquent and economical expression.

Hombre, 1979 LITHOGRAPH
Rufino Tamayo was one of the first artists in Latin America to interpret his roots without historicism, anecdote, or proclamation. In doing so, Rufino Tamayo formed one of the most brilliant chapters of the already rich and prestigious field of original graphic art in Mexico.

To view the gallery’s collection of available Rufino Tamayo
Prints please visit our website:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Marc Chagall - The Story of Exodus

Exodus - "God parted the clouds... "(M467)

Marc Chagall and Lithography

Marc Chagall was introduced to original lithography by Fernand Mourlot, owner of the renowned Mourlot Atelier lithographic studio located in Paris, France. Marc Chagall worked closely with Master Printer Charles Sorlier and over the next 35 years, Chagall created over 1,000 original lithographs at the Atelier Mourlot. The partnership between Marc Chagall and Charles Sorlier was extremely fruitful. . Charles Sorlier advised Chagall on all his future color lithograph projects and supervised their printing at the Mourlot Studio:

Marc Chagall
"Marc Chagall fabricated a mystical world of lovers, musicians and artists in his work. Chagall chose lithography as a print medium that could offer him almost unlimited painterly freedom to explore this world. Since lithography is a technique where the artist can work directly on the printing plate or lithostone, the resultant prints convey the spontaneity of Chagall’s brushstrokes and drawn lines. Lithography also allowed Chagall to work in lush color, which he viewed as his métier, and for which Chagall has become renowned. Chagall's lithographs are now among the most collected art works of the 20th century."
                                                                  – Charles Sorlier

While working with Charles Sorlier and Mourlot, Chagall completed many lithographic series including The Bible, The Story of Exodus, The Circus, Daphnis and Chloe and The Odyssey. Chagall used up to 25 different lithographic plates per print to achieve the perfect expression of color. Over the course of his lifetime, Marc Chagall continued to be fascinated with color lithography as a printmaking medium and retained the Mourlot Atelier and especially Charles Sorlier as his creative collaborators.

Marc Chagall and The Bible

Exodus "Moses and
the Burning Bush" (M447)
Raised in a remote village in present day Belarus, Marc Chagall’s Jewish heritage proved to be one of the major influences in Marc Chagall’s Art. Chagall’s art is characterized by imagery drawn from the quaint Jewish village including animals from Chagall’s childhood, his strong family heritage, and the Jewish faith and practice. Chagall endeavored to express the spiritual meaning and moral messages found in Biblical teachings through his paintings, lithography, etchings, and original prints.

Exodus - "Bezaleel and
his Golden Cherubim" (M464)
“Ever since my earliest youth I have been fascinated by the Bible. The Bible is the echo of nature, and this I have endeavored to transmit. . . . In art everything is possible, so long as it is based on love.” – Marc Chagall

In 1966, Marc Chagall created a series of original lithographs depicting the biblical Story of the Exodus. The Story of Exodus portfolio contained 24 large color lithographs. 23 of The Story of Exodus Lithographs were printed on paper measuring 50 x 37 cm and the last original print was created as a double-size plate with a centerfold. The Story of Exodus was created in a limited edition consisting of 285 portfolios signed on the justification page by Marc Chagall: 250 on Velin d'Arches numbered from 1 to 250; 20 on Japon Nacre paper; and 15 hors commerce (not for sale) lettered A to O reserved for project collaborators.

Exodus - "Moses Calls Down the
Waters Upon the Eqyptians" (M453)
 The name Exodus means "going out" or “departure". It refers not only to one of the most important events of the book Exodus (the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt), but also to other highly significant events as well, such as the call of Moses and God’s covenant with the nation Israel at Sinai - an experience culminating in God’s giving of the moral law (Ten Commandments) through Moses to the people. Portraying one of the most important stories of The Old Testament, and one of the central figures in the Jewish faith, Chagall’s Story of Exodus is a brilliant series with vivid color illuminating the spiritual and emotional nature of the story.

Exodus - "Moses Shows the
Elders the Tablets of the Law" (M457)
Often Marc Chagall would travel to foreign countries for inspiration for his artwork. Prior to creating The Story of Exodus, Chagall made a personal and spiritual journey to Palestine and present day Israel. Chagall wanted to experience the land and culture of the birthplace of Judaism. Chagall’s time spent in the Middle East influenced all of his biblically themed works, including the Exodus Series as well as the Bible Series.
Exodus - "Then
Came Alamek" (M456)

“I saw the hills of Sodom and the Negev, out of whose defiles appear the shadows of our prophets in their yellowish garments, the color of dry bread. I heard their ancient words. . . . Have they not truly and justly shown in their words how to behave on this earth and by what ideal to live?” – Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall’s illustrations of The Story of Exodus are magnificent examples of Chagall’s masterful use of vibrant color to create lush depth, texture and emotion. The Exodus lithographs were highly acclaimed at their time of release and remain one of Chagall’s most popular series due to their expert use of color and fervent imagery.

Exodus - "Moses Sees the
Suffering of his People" (M446)
“Changes in societal structure and in art would possess more credibility if they had their origins in the soul and spirit. If people read the words of the prophets with closer attention, they would find the keys to life.”
  - Marc Chagall

To view our collection of available Marc Chagall Prints
please visit our website:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tom Wesselmann - The Great American Nude

Monica with Motherwell, 1994 Serigraph
 "Personality would only be distraction from the simple fact of nudity. When I create physical details like lips or nipples, they are of importance for the erotic simplification. From the beginning I never gave them faces. A face gives personal touch to a sexual act, makes it a portrait act. And that, I don´t like at all."
                                                             – Tom Wesselmann

Tom Wesselmann, an American born painter, sculptor, and printmaker, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1931. Tom Wesselmann studied psychology at the University of Cincinnati and also took art classes at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Wesselmann had originally intended to become a cartoonist, but instead turned to painting.
Claire sitting Robe Half Off (Portfolio 90), 1993 Screenprint
 From 1956-1959 Tom Wesselmann continued his art studies at the Cooper Union in New York. While studying in New York, Wesselmann quickly informed himself about modern art by visiting the museums where the art of Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning made a lasting impact on Wesselmann. In 1957 Tom Wesselmann met Claire Selley, another Cooper Union student who was to become his friend, model, and later, his wife. After graduating, Tom Wesselmann became one of the founding members of the Judson Gallery, along with Marc Ratliff and artist Jim Dine.

In 1961 Tom Wesselmann began working on his series the Great American Nude. After a dream concerning the phrase "red, white, and blue", Tom Wesselmann decided to paint a Great American Nude in a palette limited to those colors and any colors associated with patriotic motifs such as gold and khaki. Tom Wesselmann’s Great American Nude series incorporated representational images with an accordingly patriotic theme, such as American landscape photos and portraits of founding fathers. Often these nudes were collaged from magazines and discarded posters, and were very large scale. Tom Wesselmann had his first solo art show at the Tanager Gallery in New York later that year, representing both the large and small Great American Nude collages.

Tom Wesselmann would soon emerge as one of the leading figures in American Pop Art along with fellow artists Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jim Dine and Alex Katz among others. Tom Wesselmann never liked his inclusion in American Pop Art, pointing out how he made an aesthetic use of everyday objects and not a reference to them as consumer objects.

Still Life with Petunias, Lilies and Fruit, 1988 Screenprint
In 1962, Tom Wesselmann participated in the New Realists art exhibition, which included art by the American Pop artists Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol; and Europeans such as Arman and Christo. Wesselmann contributed two Still Life collages to the art exhibition. That year, Wesselmann had begun working on a new series of Still Lifes, experimenting with assemblage as well as collage.

Still Life with Liz (Portfolio 90), 1993 Screenprint
Tom Wesselmann's subjects are characteristically overtly sexual and Wesselmann is best known for his artworks where the nude becomes a depersonalized sex symbol set in a commonplace environment. Wesselmann would emphasize the woman's nipples, mouth and genitals with the rest of the body depicted in flat, unmodulated color.
Bedroom Blonde, 1997 Serigraph
During the late 1960s and early 1970s Tom Wesselmann worked constantly on the 'Bedroom Painting Series' in which elements of his 'Great American Nude', 'Still Lifes' and 'Seascapes' were juxtaposed. With these artworks Wesselmann began to concentrate on a few details such as hands, feet and breasts surrounded by flowers and objects. A major motivation of the 'Bedroom Paintings' was to shift the focus and scale of the attendant objects around a nude; these objects are relatively small in relation to the nude, but become major, even dominant elements when the central element is a body part.

Nude with Bouquet and Stockings, 1992 Screenprint
Tom Wesselmann was a highly inventive printmaker who favored the screenprint or serigraph, but also worked in unconventional formats, such as blind embossing and mixograph relief prints. These large scale prints mirror the boldness of Wesselmann’s unique paintings and embody the vitality, openness and free spirit of the sixties.

Following surgery for Wesselmann’s heart condition, Tom Wesselmann died on December 17, 2004.

Select Museum Collections:
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Tate Gallery, London
Haifa Museum, Israel
Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis