Wayne Thiebaud

Wayne Thiebaud was an American artist best known for his Pop paintings of cakes, pies, donuts, ice creams and other treats. Produced over the course of six decades, from the turn of the 1960s onwards, they reflect the boom in American consumerism in that period. ‘I found I couldn’t leave it alone,’ Thiebaud said of his chosen subject matter, which also included gumball machines.

Thiebaud was born in Mesa, Arizona, in 1920. The following year, his family moved to California, where he lived almost his entire life. As a teenager, he took an apprenticeship at Disney Studios and impressed his bosses by drawing Popeye with both hands simultaneously.

After World War II, he taught art for a decade in Sacramento. He achieved his career breakthrough when he was included in 1962’s New Realists. This was a landmark survey of Pop Art at Sidney Janis Gallery in New York.

The subjects of his paintings aligned perfectly with the soup cans of Andy Warhol and the hamburgers of Claes Oldenburg. Thiebaud, however, also had a sensitivity to the beauty of surfaces, shadows and light which compares with Old Masters such as the 18th-century still life painter Jean-Siméon Chardin. He never felt comfortable being labelled solely a Pop artist.

In July 2020, his painting Four Pinball Machines (1962) — depicting a row of arcade machines, decorated in a vibrant mix of oranges and yellows — sold for $19,135,000 at Christie’s. This set a record for the most expensive price ever paid for a work by Thiebaud at auction.

As years passed, the artist also took to painting cityscapes, inspired chiefly by the hilly topography of San Francisco; and landscapes, notably of the Sacramento Valley, which he began in the 1990s.

Another genre in which Thiebaud worked productively was portraiture. His figures tend to be cool, maintaining an emotional distance and reserve. Typically, they avoid eye contact with the viewer — and, when depicted in pairs or groups, with each other.

Thiebaud was awarded the National Medal of Arts from the US government in 1991. He turned 100 in November 2020 and died a year later.

WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)

Mountain Hill Sketches

韦恩·第伯 (1920 年生)

《四个弹球机》

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Eating Figures (Quick Snack)

WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920 - 2021)

Three Ice Cream Cones

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Seven Suckers

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

City Downgrade

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Three Candied Apples

WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)

Pieces of Pumpkin

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Nine Cupcakes

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Reflected Landscape

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Self-Portrait

WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)

Clouds and Ridge

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

River Channels

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Pieces of Pumpkin

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Happy Birthday

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Coming and Going

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Cigar in Ashtray

WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)

Cigar in Ashtray

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Napa Valley Ridge

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Candy Apple Cigar Box

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Mickey and Minnie Cakes

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Hot Dog and Mustard