Famous for his dreamy 1960s paintings of cakes, Wayne Thiebaud began his career as a commercial artist and cartoon illustrator like many other artists of the period, including Andy Warhol. And like Warhol, Thiebaud became tied to pop art since he was making images of popular American products like food, lipsticks, and toys. Yet unlike many of his pop peers, Bay Area-based Thiebaud wasn't interested in poking fun at the establishment. He's a painter's painter, a real traditionalist. Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective
covers a career of rendering still lifes, cityscapes, landscapes, and the figure. His cake paintings are formally beautiful in their color, shadow, and composition. They are perfect specimens of the good life in America, the paint lovingly applied in places like thick frosting. His cityscapes of San Francisco fiercely exaggerate the hilly landscape, capturing a perspective from the ground and air simultaneously while utilizing the light that the Bay Area is famous for.
Thoughtful essays by Steven A. Nash, associate director and chief curator for the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, and Adam Gopnik, a writer for The New Yorker, discuss Thiebaud in relation to his peers, pop, modernism, and abstract expressionism. This book serves as a catalog for Thiebaud's major retrospective, which opened in San Francisco and travels to Forth Worth, Texas, Washington, D.C., and ends in New York in the fall of 2001. Besides their beauty, these works truly capture a period of American life in a way that feels free of irony but not without commentary about nature, the city, and how we've lived. --J.P. Cohen
From Publishers Weekly
"He is an American painter, someone who paints for a living and whose subject, for all its formal perfection, is what we are to make of American abundance," writes New Yorker art critic Gopnik in his long, in-jokey introductory essay to Thiebaud's oeuvre now touring the country as a retrospective. As Gopnik makes clear, Thiebaud is famous for his lush early '60s paintings of cakes, other sweets and people eating them, but this book and the exhibition it documentsAput together by chief curator Nash of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, who also provides an essayAreveal the painter to be preoccupied with a larger slice of American life. The impossible perspectives and multigraded blues and yellows of the cityscapes here seem more bizarrely true to San Francisco than stills from Vertigo. Heavy Traffic, Deli Bowls, Tie Rack and Rabbit are just what they say they are, yet their surfaces coax us into looking at them harder and longer than such banal objects could possibly entice on their own. Such dressings-up themselves are commonplace in media-saturated American life, and Thiebaud redirects their energy unerringly throughout the 160 illustrations here, most in color. One might wish for a less insidery guide to the work than Gopnik's, but the panache of his biographical prose carries readers right into the paintings, well and comprehensively selected by Nash, whose own essay provides welcome detail on Thiebaud's working life.
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