Wayne Thiebaud American, 1920-2021


Wayne Thiebaud has long been recognized as one of America's most prominent modern artists. Probably best known for his straightforward, deadpan still-life paintings of the 1960s, and traditionally linked with Pop Art, Thiebaud is identified by his brilliant palette, luscious handling of paint, and the intensity of light that lends a particularly 'California' flavor to his images. Derived from a dialogue between realism and abstraction, seriousness and wit, sensuous pleasure and rigorous form, Thiebaud's art immerses viewers in the magic by which paint transforms itself into the things being described and back again. In addition to his well-known paintings of pies and cakes, contents of delicatessen counters, and other consumer goods, Thiebaud has also painted figure studies, cityscapes with vertiginous plunges that restructure space and perspective, and dramatically abstracted landscapes.


Wayne Thiebaud is an American painter best known for his still lifes of edible treats and everyday objects in his singular illustrative style. His most popular subject matter includes colorful cakes, slices of pie, candy pieces, and the winding streets of San Francisco. Similarly to Edward Hopper, Theibaud’s paintings capture a uniquely American sensibility, and critics have compared his penchant for still life to painters like Chardin and Giorgio Morandi.“A conscious decision to eliminate certain details and include selective bits of personal experiences or perceptual nuances, gives the painting more of a multi-dimension than when it is done directly as a visual recording,” he reflected. “This results in a kind of abstraction, and thus avoids the pitfalls of mere decoration.” Born Morton Wayne Thiebaud on November 15, 1920 in Mesa, AZ, the painter moved to California soon after, where he became interested in stage design and lighting. He began his career as a commercial artist, but switched to fine art after during his education and earned an MFA from what is now the California State University at Sacramento. A trip to New York during the 1950s introduced him to Willem de Kooning and Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, and others in the city’s art scene at the time. Although he continued to show on the East Coast, Thiebaud has remained in the Bay Area, and his work can be found in the collections of the Whitney Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994.