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Wayne Thiebaud

American Painter

Wayne Thiebaud Photo
Movements and Styles: Pop Art, Photorealism

Born: November 15, 1920 - Mesa, Arizona, United States

"I don't make a lot of distinctions between things like landscape and figure painting, because to me the problems are inherently the same - lighting, color, structure and so on - certainly traditional and ordinary problems."

Summary of Wayne Thiebaud

While rooted in the everyday, West Coast artist Wayne Thiebaud's compositions spring from his imagination and have a poetic, sometimes melancholic, quality about them. Thiebaud bucked artistic trends to create his own vision of American culture. Trained as a commercial artist and uninterested in the histrionics surrounding Abstract Expressionism, Thiebaud concentrated his attention on ordinary objects, thus garnering comparisons to Pop Art of the 1960s, yet Thiebaud brushed away such comparisons, saying he was "just an old-fashioned painter."

A popular teacher, Thiebaud was a generous mentor, and artists such as Mel Ramos, Fritz Scholder, and Faith Bromberg have spoken his praises. Further, Thiebaud's embrace of Americana - as seen through his bakery cases and landscapes - has endeared him to a wider audience that see something of themselves in his paintings.

Key Ideas

Thiebaud began his artistic path studying commercial art and illustration before turning to fine arts study, and this early training continues to inform his work. The linear, even illustrative, quality of his paintings suggest advertisements and commercial photographs. Thiebaud has always felt that the line between commercial and fine art is too rigidly drawn, and his work constantly transgresses that border.
While often associated with Pop Art because of a shared subject matter, Thiebaud is more often than not absorbed in traditional problems of painting - how to create depth without sacrificing the two-dimensionality of painting and how objects relate to one another. Through seemingly simple still lifes, Thiebaud evokes stories of plenty and loss, prompting an emotional response from the viewer that is absent in Pop Art.
Thiebaud has often spoken of the "Americanness" of his paintings. His depictions of cakes, pastries, everyday objects, and landscapes convey an earnestness and curiosity that can be traced back to the likes of Edward Hopper and earlier American art. While some have spoken of a melancholic, even sinister, mood in some of his paintings, they lack a biting critique, or rebuke, of American consumer culture and instead offer a meditation on it.
Wayne Thiebaud Photo

Painting well into his nineties, Thiebaud has made a name for himself as the hardest working artist in America. Continuing to draw or paint every day, he says he can work almost anyplace: "I’ve worked in basements, garages, even kitchens."

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