Wayne Thiebaud

[1920 - Present] View All Work

We are delighted to present this rare group of prints by Wayne Thiebaud, an artist whom we have long taken an interest in but have never had the opportunity to show in such depth, until now.

Born in Arizona in 1920, Thiebaud's family moved to California before his first birthday and 94 years later, he continues to live and work there today.  He began his career in the late 1930's as a self-taught commercial artist and worked as an animation assistant for Walt Disney an later, an Art Director for Rexall Drugs.

After returning from WWII, Thiebaud enrolled in an arts school in order to pursue a career as a fine artist.  His earliest work was heavily influenced by Abstract Expressionism, the predominant style in America at that time.  By the early 1960's Thiebaud became disillusioned with abstraction and made a radical shift back to the investigation of purely formal concerns.  He looked for everyday objects that could easily be distilled into simple shapes - triangles, spheres, cubes and ellipses.  The gumball machines, pie slices, lollypops and ice cream cones that now epitomize Thiebaud's work were chosen initially for their simple shapes and formal qualities.

Pursuing his interest in this new kind of realism, Thiebaud became fascinated by the difficulty of drawing light distorted through glass or volume on a flat surface.  His gumball machines and candy dishes along with soft, billowy meringues and frosting on pies and cakes became a means to explore these technical challenges.

We have included a variety of still life subjects in this exhibition, from the earliest black and white 'Delights' etchings to the later, delicately colored 'Meringue'.  These still life's offer much more than their formal qualities - they are nostalgic, delicious, inviting, and distinctly American.  However, it is so easy to be drawn into the subjects themselves that we neglect to recognize the complicated, formal concerns underlying them.  He draws his subjects from memory rather than observation, presenting us with an archetypal example of what we might imagine versus a perfectly observed version.  for Thiebaud, these sumptuous images of cakes, candies, and toys present technical accomplishment and charming character in equal measure.

Looking at the dramatic Californian landscape provided Thiebaud with a different set of artistic challenges.  Always fascinated by his sense of place, he decided to draw the soaring hills of San Francisco.  Initially working in situ, he soon found that drawing this dramatic topography from his imagination was surprisingly more effective.  We have included three of his most colorful and compelling landscape prints, each with the exaggerated height and flattened perspective that typify the experience of being in northern California.

Thiebaud is an artist with the rare ability to perfectly combine brilliant draftsmanship and dazzling color in his works.  He has been a consistent and committed printmaker throughout his career.  Beautifully drawn and perfectly colored, these charming, delightful prints can only be described as pure joy.

— Lindsey Ingram