Thiebaud, Wayne

Wayne Thiebaud (1920–2021) is a Californian painter who is best known for his iconic still lifes of all-American foods and products, such as cakes, pies, sandwiches, cosmetics, and toys.   Born in Arizona, Thiebaud moved to California in his youth. A student of commercial art, he spent several years as a professional cartoonist at the Walt Disney Studios and elsewhere before moving on to teach art. Thiebaud’s knowledge of and respect for commercial illustration greatly informed his subsequent work, which is marked by its formal geometric order and clearly defined forms. After briefly working in the dominant abstract expressionist style, Thiebaud settled on realism as his primary mode of expression in the mid-1950s.

Although he has been frequently associated with Pop Art due to his choice of subject matter, Thiebaud does not consider himself a Pop artist, nor does he align himself with the Bay Area figurative movement. His painting does not critique American culture so much as celebrate it, and his brushwork is more individual and expressive than the flat, mechanized style favored by Pop artists such as Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist. Thiebaud himself disavows an allegiance to any style, preferring to concentrate on the discipline of painting and his formal concerns. This focus places him in context with earlier painters he admires, including the 18th-century French painter Chardin, Giorgio Morandi, and Edward Hopper.

Wayne Thiebaud is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 2001, he was honored with a retrospective and monograph organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor. The show to traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas. His work is held by major museums in the United States and abroad. Wayne Thiebaud died at the age of 101 in December 2021.


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