Andy Warhol blazed the trail of Americana imagery in the fine art world with his Campbell’s soup screen prints, but at the same time, another artist was making his name in a similar vein, painting quaint and somewhat bizarre interpretations of American desserts. Wayne Thiebaud painted cakes and pies with gusto. His textured masterpieces took on the real-life characteristics of buttercream frosting and gooey cherry filling. He was obsessed with the lifelike textures of pies and cakes in bakery cases and displays. Now 96 years old, the prolific artist is still painting, and 28 of his works, spanning from 1962 to present, are currently on display at White Cube in London.
Some of the paintings in the show include samples from Thiebaud’s later ventures into landscapes, portraits, and still lifes, and of course, his classic dessert paintings. “These images of pastries, cakes, and other foodstuffs, rendered in his signature painterly style, with radiant color and delicious impasto, are condensed explorations of the language of painting,” Curator Susan May tells Creators. “For example, the different ways one color can appear when placed next to another, or the variety of marks and application that depict space and form.”
Thiebaud got his start as a graphic designer and cartoonist for the United States Air Force in the 1940s. His painting career took off after befriending NYC artists Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, and eventually moving to New York from the West Coast in 1960. With growing popularity in the pop-art and abstract expressionist movements, Thiebaud’s still lifes are known for reflecting a growing age of mass consumption, and his abstract landscapes were influenced by Richard Diebenkorn.
According to May, “All of these are subjects he has continually returned to throughout his seven decade career. One of the most recent paintings in the exhibition, for example, depicts a segment of cherry pie, arranged on a plate through deft strokes of luscious color. It is a modestly-scaled work yet one which shows Thiebaud to be a painter who is still at the height of his powers.”
Thiebaud even revisits work technically, including one of the earliest paintings in the show from 1966, a still life of his daughter that he has returned to many times over the years to repaint various sections, still refining and retouching it as recently as this year. This exhibition reflects the power of Thiebaud’s pioneering aesthetic and champions the career of an artist still active well into his nineties.
Wayne Thiebaud’s work will be on display at White Cube in London through July 2nd. Visit their website for more information about the exhibit.