Tom Wesselmann was born in Cincinnati, Ohio (U.S.A.) on 23 February 1931.
Between 1945 and 1951 he studied at the Hiram College in Ohio before studying psychology at Cincinnati university. One year later he was called up for military service due to the Korea war. Being discontented with his situation he began to draw cartoons at that time. In 1954 he resumed his studies and apart from this he attended the art academy.
He moved to New York and attends Cooper Union School for Arts and Architecture in 1956. He earned his living by working as a cartoonist for several journals and magazines as well as by teaching at a high school in Brooklyn. At the end of the fifties a series of collages in small format were created being regarded as precursors of the later series 'Great American Nudes' and 'Still life' in big format. Out of these collages he developed first nude depictions in 1960.
His first single exhibition took place at the Tanager Gallery in New York in 1961. One year later he participated in the group exhibition 'New Realists' at the Sidney Janis Gallery, his international career with numerous exhibitions started off. The same year his first assemblages with the title 'Still Life' came into existence.
In 1963 Wesselmann married his girl-friend and fellow student Claire Selley, who also was his most important model. He began a series of 'Bathtub Collages'.
In 1966 the first of many one-man shows took place at the Janis Gallery. In 1964 Tom Wesselmann began with further series, e.g. 'Bedroom Paintings', 'Seascapes' and 'Smokers', which he continued until the early 1980s. In 1980 he published a treatise about his artistic development under the pseudonym Slim Stealingworth.
In 1983 first 'Metal Works' were produced, which were based on the artist's drawings and sketches and which are still in the centre of the artist's interest. In 1994 a comprehensive retrospective took place at the Kunsthalle in Tübingen.
Wesselmann died in New York on 17 December 2004. His choice of trivial motifs, their monumentalisation, reduction to stereotypes, sexual emblematic as well as the use of bright colours made Wesselmann a co-founder of the American Pop-Art during the 1960s.