In Wesselmann’s Great American Nude series, vibrant and joyous odalisques are decorated with the paraphernalia of 1960s American life and radiate an electric sensuality, shrouded with a sense of enthusiasm and optimism. This is perfectly encapsulated in the present work by the coy smile of the model and the centrality of the gleaming crimson red star, an unmistakable visual reference to the American flag. This figure, presented in the simplified and chromatically intense visual language of mass media, exemplifies the American blond bombshell fantasy, a trophy of the American middle class. In Study for Great American Nude #75 Wesselmann mobilised the deadpan style of Pop Art to magnificent effect, bringing the subject of the female nude to relevance in post war America. Taking inspiration from a long and rich lineage of the subject of the female nude, particularly drawing upon the works of Henri Matisse and Willem de Kooning, “Wesselmann found another way around Abstract Expressionism while keeping his subject matter within a fully sanctioned fine art context.” (David McCarthy, ‘Tom Wesselmann and the Americanization of the Nude’, 1961-1963, Smithsonian Studies in American Art, Vol. 4, No. 3/4, 1990, p. 110). Wesselmann brought the subject of the female nude to relevance in post war America, with a keen sense of irony and cool use of parody. The Great American Nude #75 visually mocks the colourful, synthetic aesthetic of American advertisement, while the title references the concept of the ‘Great American Dream’ or the ‘Great American Novel’, candidly poking fun at the apparent grandeur of a uniquely American sense of ambition.
The Great American Nude series propelled Tom Wesselmann to the forefront of the 1960s New York Art scene, positioning the artist as one of the founding fathers of Pop Art. Study for Great American Nude #75 embodies the spirit of the sixties, truly standing as a symbol of Pop Art in America.
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