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Wayne Thiebaud: Homecoming

October 10, 2010 to November 28, 2010


This new exhibition is a homecoming for both the artist and the Crocker Art Museum. In 1951, the Crocker presented Thiebaud's first solo exhibition, Influences on a Young Painter. The Museum's current major retrospective, featuring approximately 50 paintings and drawings, spans the entirety of Thiebaud's career from the artist's early works to new paintings created in 2010.

Organized by Thiebaud and Crocker Chief Curator Scott A. Shields, and drawn in part from the traveling exhibition Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting, the Crocker exhibition will include many works not previously displayed, with special attention given to Sacramento places and personalities.

Wayne Thiebaud: Homecoming includes iconic edibles-work that linked high art with popular culture-alongside pieces that showcase Thiebaud's skill in rendering the human figure and the California landscape. Among the latter are river-delta views from the Sacramento area, cityscapes from San Francisco, and beach scenes from Southern California. The works attest to the artist's ability to sensuously manipulate pigment and capture clear light and vibrant color, demonstrating Thiebaud's technical virtuosity and tongue-in-cheek humor. Additional works by Thiebaud will also be on view in the Crocker's permanent collection galleries as well as in the exhibition Tomorrow's Legacies: Gifts Celebrating the Next 125 Years.


(above: Wayne Thiebaud, Flood Waters, 2006. Oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches. Courtesy of Paul Thiebaud Gallery, New York. © Wayne Thiebaud, licensed by VAGA, NY. ) 


(above: Wayne Thiebaud, Bakery Case, 1996. Oil on canvas, 60 x 72 inches. Thiebaud Family Collection. © Wayne Thiebaud, licensed by VAGA, NY. ) 


(above: Wayne Thiebaud, Two Kneeling Figures, 1966. Oil on canvas, 60 x 72 inches. Collection of Paul LeBaron Thiebaud. © Wayne Thiebaud, licensed by VAGA, NY. )

This exhibition celebrates Sacramento's most famous artist, Wayne Thiebaud. In 1951, Thiebaud held his first one-artist exhibition, Influences on a Young Painter, at the Crocker. This new exhibition, featuring more than 50 paintings and drawings, spans his production, from early works to paintings fresh from the easel. Like many artists of his generation, Thiebaud began his career as a commercial artist.  He began his formal training at San Jose State University before moving to Sacramento in the early 1950s for graduate study at Sacramento State College, now California State University, Sacramento. He taught at Sacramento City College and in 1960 joined the art department at the University of California, Davis.

Thiebaud took a hiatus from teaching in 1956(?) - 57, to work on Madison Avenue in New York City. There, he became acquainted with Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Philip Pearlstein, and other art luminaries. His career was forever changed in 1962 when the Allan Stone Gallery opened a solo exhibition of his still lifes. In a May 1962 Time magazine summation of pop art's stars, Thiebaud's solo show inspired the moniker, "The Slice-of-Cake School."

Although sharing a bright palette, consumerist imagery and graphic presentation, Thiebaud's paintings differed from those of Warhol, Lichtenstein and Rosenquist, whose works emphasized the methods and appearance of mechanical reproduction. Thiebaud, by contrast, was a painterly practitioner, and his thick, luscious impasto made his edibles appear fully modeled and tantalizingly delicious. 

In Wayne Thiebaud: Homecoming, such iconic edibles are included alongside works depicting the human figure and the California landscape. Among the latter are river-delta views from the Sacramento area, cityscapes from San Francisco and beach scenes from Southern California. No matter the subject, these works uniformly attest to the artist's ability to sensuously manipulate pigment and capture clear light and vibrant color. It is this technical virtuosity, along with the artist's tongue-in-cheek humor and ability to capture the realities of our place and time, which have helped to make Thiebaud a uniquely American painter.

Please click here to view the introductory wall panel for the exhibition and here to view the checklist.

Editor's note: The above text includes an article from the Museum's quarterly magazine ArtLetter.

On 2/12/14 Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University in Malibu sent to TFAO a press release concerning the exhibition Wayne Thiebaud: Works on Paper, 1948-2004, on view through March 30, 2014. The release contained the following biographical information for the artist:

Thiebaud was born in 1920 in Mesa, Arizona, and resides in Sacramento, California. As a child he lived in Long Beach, California, and in Hurricane, Utah, where his family's farm failed during the Depression. The family moved back to Long Beach in 1933, and Thiebaud worked in his youth as a sign painter and as an "in-betweener" in the animation department of Walt Disney studios. He studied commercial art in a trade school, attended Long Beach Junior College, and worked as a shipfitter in the Long Beach harbor. In the U.S. Army from 1942 to 1945, stationed in California, he drew a cartoon strip for the base newspaper.
After leaving the service, he worked as a designer and cartoonist at the Rexall Drug Company in Los Angeles, where a fellow employee was painter Robert Mallary, who encouraged him to begin painting. Studying under the GI Bill, Thiebaud received a BA and an MA from California State College (now California State University) in Sacramento. His first one-person exhibition was in 1951 at the E. B. Crocker Art Gallery (now the Crocker Art Museum).
Thiebaud began teaching at Sacramento Junior College in 1951. He has been a teacher ever since, working as a visiting professor in schools around the country, from Colorado University to Harvard and Yale. From 1960 he sustained a teaching commitment to the University of California, Davis. (He nominally retired in 1990.)
In 1956-57, he lived for a year in New York City, became friendly with Elaine and Willem de Kooning, and met other abstract expressionist artists. His first exhibition in New York, at the Allan Stone Gallery in 1962, received tremendous critical attention, with reviews in Newsweek, Art News, The New York Times, and Life magazine. That same year he had a one-person exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. He has been an active printmaker throughout his career, and began making etchings at Crown Point Press in 1964.
Thiebaud has shown in numerous exhibitions and received many awards, including the National Medal of Arts, presented by President Clinton in 1994. His paintings are in the collections of most major museums in the United States, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. He is represented by Acquavella, New York, and the Paul Thiebaud Gallery, San Francisco.

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