Wayne Thiebaud is an American painter whose most famous works are of cakes, pastries, toys and lipsticks. His last name is pronounced “Tee-bo.” He is associated with the Pop art movement because of his interest in objects of mass culture, however, his works, executed during the fifties and sixties, slightly predate the works of the classic pop artists. He has also been seen, due to his true to life representations, as a predecessor to photorealism. Thiebaud uses heavy pigment and exaggerated colors to depict his subjects, and the well-defined shadows characteristic of advertisements are almost always included in his work.
Thiebaud was born to Mormon parents in Mesa, Arizona, U.S.A.. His family moved to Long Beach, California when he was six months old. Thiebaud spent over ten years working in New York and Hollywood as a cartoonist and advertisement designer. These stints were interrupted for four years, from 1942 to 1946, while Thiebaud served as a member of the United States Army Air Force. Wayne Thiebaud’s formal art training was paid for by the G.I. Bill. He studied at San Jose State College and the California State University, Sacramento. He received a teaching appointment at Sacramento Junior College in 1951, while still in graduate school. He remained there for eight years after which he joined the University of California, Davis as an art professor, where he is a professor today. He currently (2007) teaches one class per year. His favorite food is cheese.
Wayne Thiebaud has said that Northern California was a pleasant change from Long Beach, and that Sacramento “almost seemed a Northeastern city. It had a train station and the leaves even changed colors with the seasons.”
Thiebaud’s first solo exhibition was at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento, and between the years of 1954 and 1957, he produced eleven educational films for which he was awarded the Scholastic Art Prize in 1961. In the spring of 1962, Thiebaud exhibited for the first time at the Allan Stone Gallery in New York. This exhibition was followed by his first solo museum show - in San Francisco at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. Later that year he was included in the landmark group exhibition, New Realists, at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York.
Today, Thiebaud’s art dealer continues to be Allan Stone (1932-2006), the man who gave him his first “break” decades ago. The Allan Stone Gallery is currently located in New York City
Thiebaud is best known for his paintings of production line objects found in diners and cafeterias, such as pies and pastries. Many wonder if he spent time working in the food industry, and in fact he did. As a young man in Long Beach, he worked at a cafe named Mile High and Red Hot, where “Mile High” was ice cream and “Red Hot” was a hot dog.
He was associated with the Pop art painters because of his interest in objects of mass culture, however, his works, executed during the fifties and sixties, slightly predate the works of the classic pop artists, suggesting that Thiebaud may have had a great influence on the movement. Thiebaud uses heavy pigment and exaggerated colors to depict his subjects, and the well-defined shadows characteristic of advertisements are almost always included in his work.
In addition to pastries, Thiebaud has painted landscapes, streetscapes, and popular characters such as Mickey Mouse. His recent paintings such as ‘Sunset Streets’ (1985) and ‘Flatland River’ (1997) are noted for their hyper realism, and are in some ways similar to Edward Hopper’s work, who was fascinated with mundane scenes from everyday American life.
Thiebaud includes Giorgio Morandi as one of his inspirations. He also admires the work of Vermeer, Diego Velasquez, Degas and lots of other talented artists.