wayne thiebaud cakes
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.
One of my favourite contemporary painters is the Californian artist Wayne Thiebaud (born 1920). He came to prominence in the 1960’s on the back of the of the Pop Art movement, though he himself does not consider himself a Pop Artist. 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 is best known for his iconic still-lifes foods and products, such as cakes, pies, sandwiches, cosmetics, and toys. He is also celebrated for his vertiginous San Francisco cityscapes and his richly hued views of Northern California. Because his subject matter varies in this way I’m actually going to put up three successive posts on his work featuring cakes, landscapes, and cityscapes.
Personally my favourites are his landscapes, often painted as if seen from an aeroplane, they feature sinuous rivers, lakes and crop patterns, all rendered in his delicious ice-cream palette. The first post shows his cakes (and the odd hot dog or sweet), painted in his typically sensuous, impasto brushwork, and again the delicious colours making the cakes seem both tangible and edible.
The cakes and pies, the best known of Thiebaud’s work, are painted from his imagination and from long-ago memories of bakeries and diners. But he also paints from life. He points to the woman in the short skirt in his Two Seated Figures (1965). “Those are a lot like Rubens’ knees!” he says. He likes to say he steals from the best. The woman with the pinkish cupid-like knees is his favorite muse, his wife of 51 years, Betty Jean. Other pictures in the show reflect their life together: scenes from Laguna Beach, where they have a second home; the streetscapes of San Francisco, where he had a studio in the 1970s; a pair of beautiful drawings of their two sons as little boys. (Thiebaud has two daughters from an earlier marriage.) As we move through the galleries, we begin to collect a dozen or so museum visitors, who are surprised to discover the celebrated artist in the midst of his own show. They listen to every word of his mini-tutorial, and two take his picture with their cellphones.
Bakery Case, with its half-empty tray of frosted doughnuts, pies and a festooned wedding cake, summons references to influential artists such as Bonnard and Matisse, as well as Josef Albers’ color theory that the perception of color is altered by the colors around it. When Thiebaud paints an object or form, he famously surrounds it with multiple colors, often stripes or lines, of equal intensity, to create a halo effect—though you might not notice that unless you look closely. “They’re fighting for position,” he says of the colors. “That’s what makes them vibrate when you put them next to each other.”
In short Thieband is not to be called a pop art artist but on the other hand he is indispensible in analysing pop art, simply because his pieces of art can by structure and topic serve as forerunner for the future pop artists to come, like e.g. Andy Warhole.
Author : Wayne Thiebaud
Though Thiebaud’s paintings look complex, artists of all ages can create cakes of their own. Once we break it down, step back, and realize that all artwork is composed of basic shapes and lines, we begin to see the geometry at play.
Wayne Thiebaud is an artist made famous by his paintings of desserts. His artwork looks good enough to eat. The thick application of oil paint has the texture of real frosting, meringue, and fillings with delightful values and colors.
Wayne Thiebaud, Cakes, 1963
oil on canvas, 152.4 x 182.9 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.