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Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting

March 28 - July 27, 2008


"Delicious" is perhaps the best way to describe the art of one of Utah's "Most Honored Artists" Wayne Thiebaud. Whether it is the delectable desserts of his paintings or his almost touchable painting surfaces, to see his work is a multi-sensory experience. The very paint on the canvas looks as edible as the cakes he paints. Devoted followers and novices of Thiebaud's work will be able to experience a retrospective of his paintings when the exhibition Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting is at the Springville Museum of Art in Springville, Utah from 28 March through 27 July 2008. This exhibition of 84 oil paintings and drawings is free and open to the public, and is made possible through generous sponsorship by Wasatch Advisors, Zions Bank, Nestle USA Food Division, Sam & Diane Stewart and the Thomas A. and Lucille B. Horne Foundation.

In addition to the delights of the bakery window which made him famous in the 1960s, visitors of this exhibition will have a chance to view some of Thiebaud's more recent work and some of his lesser-known subjects. A selection of beach paintings on display for the first time, such as Nine Beach Figures (2003-05), allows Thiebaud to explore the playful coloring of sand, sun, and water. There are also a number of cityscapes, such as Ocean City (2006-07). The bizarre composition of this painting shows multiple perspectives and truly gives the impression of city energy. Several figure studies showcase Thiebaud's process as an artist. These works show the varied subject matter and broad development of the artist's career, which has spanned over seventy years.

Raised in Long Beach and currently based in Sacramento, Thiebaud spent part of his childhood north of St. George, Utah. From 1929-1933 he lived at Thorley Ranch, and still speaks of that time with fondness. The happy influence of his childhood years is evident in his bright color palette, as well as in the light and calming tone of his art. With work that is both traditional and modern, Thiebaud fuses together different styles to create paintings that are relaxed, yet playful. His paintings reference and respect other artists, styles, and media, while still creating a new and one-of-a-kind experience for the viewer. Through this unique style Thiebaud has achieved national artistic acclaim, but still sees himself as a very young 87-year-old and student of art who is continually learning. As he says, "Painting is a chance to educate yourself forever."

The well-studied Thiebaud speaks of his artistic predecessors with lighthearted reverence. "The history of art is the history of miracles," he says. Thiebaud cherishes the ability to work within the great tradition of painting, but he is quick to downplay his own contribution. When speaking of his process in painting, he says with a laugh, "I am desperately trying to make it look not so bad." Many of his works transcend subject and become studies in texture, form, color, or lighting. He describes every painting as a kind of portrait, with all of the various features merging together into a single body.

Thiebaud's work will be displayed at the Springville Museum of Art, Utah's oldest museum for the visual fine arts and a key promoter and contributor to the arts in Utah. Built in 1937, the beautiful Spanish Moroccan style Museum houses an impressive collection of 150 years of Utah fine art, twentieth century Russian and Soviet Socialist Realism, and American Realist art. A variety of exhibitions, concerts, programs, and special events are offered throughout the year.

Museum Director Dr. Vern G. Swanson is pleased to host this exhibition. He says, "Wayne Thiebaud is such an important American painter, and part of Utah's cultural heritage as well. We are excited to have his work here, as it will provide a valuable course of study for contemporary Utah painters."

A number of special events will accompany this free exhibition, including a reception with the artist on 29 March. See http://www.smofa.org/ for a full schedule of events.

- Jessica R. Weiss

(above: Wayne Thiebaud, Two Kneeling Figures, 1966, oil on canvas, 60 x 72 in. © Wayne Thiebaud)



About the author

Jessica R. Weiss is Associate Curator of Art and Education at the Springville Museum of Art.


Resource Library editor's note

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Natalie Petersen, Associate Director, Springville Museum of Art, for her help concerning permissions for reprinting the above text.

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Behind the Scenes with Wayne Thiebaud is a 30 minute 1992 video released by First Run Features based on a series by PBS. Follows American painter Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) as he uses drawing to expand children's understanding of line from simple outline to its creation of volume, shape, feeling, and movement
Wayne Thiebaud: Line: 30 minutes 1992 "When is a line not a line? When it's volume, shape, movement, and feeling. At first glance, the lines in Wayne Thiebaud's drawing look simple. Gradually, the line becomes more complex as the linear structure of a portrait of an ice cream cone is revealed. Hosted by the comedy team Penn and Teller, this program is designed to instill creative and critical thinking skills in children through the exploration of the visual and performing arts."

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