San Francisco Cake and Cityscape Painter Wayne Thiebaud Dies at 101 | Painting

American artist Wayne Thiebaud, whose succulent and colorful paintings of cakes and San Francisco cityscapes combined sensuality, nostalgia and a hint of melancholy, has passed away. He was 101 years old.

His death was confirmed on Sunday in a statement from his Acquavella gallery, which did not specify where or when he died.

“Even at 101, he still spent most of his days in the studio, driven by, as he described it with his characteristic humility, ‘that almost neurotic fixation of trying to learn to paint,” “the statement read.

Thiebaud was born in Mesa, Arizona, in 1920 and raised in Sacramento, California. He started as an animator for Walt Disney and worked as a poster designer and commercial artist in California and New York before becoming a painter. He was also a longtime professor at the University of California at Davis. He retired in 1991, but continued to teach one class per year.

While some took his hot dogs, bakery counters, gumball machines, and apple candy as examples of pop art, Thiebaud never saw himself as being in Andy Warhol’s mold. and did not treat his subjects with forbidden pop irony.

“Of course you are thankful when someone calls you something,” he said. “But I never felt really involved. I have to say that I never really liked pop art much.

The real subject, according to many critics, was the painting and the act of painting itself: the shimmering color and sultry texture of the paint applied in a thick layer. He applied so much paint that he often etched his signature instead of brushing it on.

A visitor admires Cakes, a 1963 painting by Wayne Thiebaud, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Photograph: Robert Alexander / Getty Images

“The oil painting is made to look like meringue,” said Marla Prather, curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City who helped organize a retrospective in 2001. “And with the cakes, you get that great sense of texture with the frosting. You just want to come up and lick it.

Many of Thiebaud’s images were depicted in neon pinks and blues that made objects glow. The shadows were often a rich blue.

“It’s joyful, when a lot of modern art is distressed,” Prather said in 2001.

Thiebaud told PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in 2000 that the subject of food was “fun and humorous, and it’s dangerous in the art world, I think.

“It’s a world that takes itself very seriously, and of course it’s a serious business, but I also think there is room for wit and humor because humor makes us feel good. gives, I think, a sense of perspective. “

Gumball machines were a favorite theme, he said, because “a big round globe is so beautiful, and it’s really kind of an orchestration of circles of sorts. But it’s also very sensual, I think, and it offers wonderful opportunities to paint something like, almost like a bouquet of flowers.

In 2004, a New York Times writer praised Thiebaud’s “tongue-in-cheek view of modern consumerism” and said: “No one has done more to revive the tired old genre of still life over the past year. half a century that M. Thiebaud with his paintings of food products. “

Thiebaud is curator of paintings for the SFMOMA collection in San Francisco, California in 2018.
Thiebaud is curator of paintings for the SFMOMA collection in San Francisco, California in 2018. Photograph: San Francisco Chronicle / Hearst Newspapers / Getty Images

Thiebaud told PBS that he prefers to call himself a painter rather than an artist, because “it’s like a priest posing as a saint. Maybe it’s a little too early or he’s not the one deciding that… I think being an artist is a very rare thing.

Along with the sensuality, there was sometimes a void and a melancholy reminiscent of Edward Hopper. He likened the feeling to the “brilliant pathos” of a circus clown.

In the landscape, his most famous subject was San Francisco, whose steep hills he portrayed in a fantastic way, with dramatic angles and crisp shadows.

“I originally painted straight on the street, trying to get the kind of drama I felt about the city and its dizzying (stunning) character,” he told PBS.

“But it didn’t seem to work… Reality was one thing but fantasy or exploration of it was another.”

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