About The Artist
Bay Area artist Wayne Thiebaud didn’t set out to create the vibrant still lifes of delectable, whipped-pastel confections for which he is now so widely known. Born in 1920 in Mesa, Arizona and raised in Long Beach, California, Thiebaud originally intended to devote his career to commercial illustration, inspired by popular cartoons and comic strips, such as George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. Before his friend and fellow artist Robert Mallary convinced him to turn his attention to fine art, Thiebaud worked a bevy of creative jobs, including freelance artist, stage technician, and apprenticed as an “in-betweener” cartoonist at the Walt Disney Studios. Thiebaud’s cartooning skills would also come in handy when he served in the Air Force from 1942-1945, where he was first assigned as an artist and cartoonist to the Special Services Department and later assumed the same role when transferred to the First Air Force Motion Picture Unit, commanded by none other than a young Ronald Reagan.
After his stint in the Air Force Thiebaud turned to fine art, while retaining strong affections for commercial art, the latter of which ultimately left an indelible effect on his work as a whole in a number of significant respects. His life as a professional painter began with his first solo show at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum in 1951, but it wasn’t until his 1962 solo exhibition at the Allan Stone Gallery in New York that Thiebaud emerged onto the scene with his singular blend of robust colors and copious brushstrokes. Thiebaud’s subjects — everyday consumer products such as sugary confections, gumball machines, thick sandwiches, toys, jukeboxes, and cosmetics — are rendered in deeply saturated colors with a liberal application of lush pigment. Both subjects and their shadows are outlined in multiple hues, creating a halo effect that Thiebaud likens to vibration. “They’re fighting for position,” he said of the competing colors. “That’s what makes them vibrate when you put them next to each other.”
His bold, painterly depictions of mass consumer culture in America garnered broad international attention amidst the Pop Art mania, although Thiebaud insists he is “just an old fashioned painter,” and “not a card carrying Pop artist,” pointing to the fact that many of his most celebrated works actually predate that movement. Nonetheless, his Technicolor still lifes of ordinary consumer products strike a chord with the peppy palette and popular, iconic imagery so readily associated with works by Pop art heavyweights such as Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, and Claes Oldenburg and, for better or worse, his work has been widely associated with that movement ever since.
Thiebaud’s work is housed in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, and Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994.
Thiebaud, Wayne. Smithsonian, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/wayne-thiebaud-is-not-a-pop-artist-57060/. Accessed 7 August 2017.
Thiebaud, Wayne. Upsilon Gallery, http://www.upsilongallery.com/wayne-thiebaud/ Accessed 7 August 2017.