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Wayne Thiebaud – RIP

Realist-with-a-pop-twist painter Wayne Thiebaud has passed away.

Morton Wayne Thiebaud
November 15, 1920 – December 25, 2021

From Acquavella Galleries:

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of a truly remarkable man, Wayne Thiebaud. An American icon, Wayne led his life with passion and determination, inspired by his love for teaching, tennis, and above all, making art. Even at 101 years old, he still spent most days in the studio, driven by, as he described with his characteristic humility, “this almost neurotic fixation of trying to learn to paint.”

The New York Times obituary (via The Seattle Times):

Wayne Thiebaud, the California-based painter whose lush, dreamy landscapes and luminous pictures of hot dogs, deli counters, marching band majorettes and other charmed relics of midcentury Americana were complex meditations on life and painting, and represented one of the most affecting and individual variations on 20th-century pop art, died Saturday at his home in Sacramento, California. He was 101.

Truth be told, Thiebaud was not really a pop painter. Detractors sometimes tried to pigeonhole him as one or as an illustrator. In fact, like many of the historical artists he admired, he was a virtuoso of the everyday and its deep, subtle symbolism.

In person he was a classic of the old American West, a slender man of Gary Cooperish charm and dry humor — soft-spoken, modest, layered, self-assured. Often bathed in Pacific sunshine, Thiebaud’s art looked at first flush radiant and plain as day. But on closer inspection, his pictures of idealized pies, spaghetti entanglements of highways and gumball machines rimmed in blue halos required unpacking. 


From Hearst Television (via The Beaumont Enterprise):

Thiebaud became an apprentice in the animation department at Walt Disney studios for three months until he was fired for participation in union activities, according to the Crocker Art Museum. He then enrolled at the Frank Wiggins Trade School in Los Angeles where he learned sign-painting and other commercial art skills.

He went on to serve in the United States Air Force but did not become a pilot. Instead, he worked in the military as a graphic artist and cartoonist. While stationed at what was then Mather Field outside Sacramento, he produced a comic strip for Mather Field’s newspaper.


From The Los Angeles Times:

Wayne Thiebaud, an artist whose images of cake, pie and other mass-produced desserts suggested Pop art but whose loose, expressive brush strokes and pointed use of light eventually proved him to be a misunderstood Realist painter, has died.

In the 1950s he began to make oil paintings of bakery goods and children’s toys to capture the “insistent reverie” they evoked for him. Lushly painted cupcakes and gumball machines brought back memories of his idyllic past. “I’m one of those lucky people who had a terrific childhood,” Thiebaud said in a 1995 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

His confectionery still lifes with their cheerful disposition seemed to him a misstep, at first.

“When I painted those damned pies I said to myself, ‘This is ridiculous, I’m a respectable painter, I can’t do pies,’“ Thiebaud recalled in a 1985 interview with the San Jose Mercury News. But the sensual beauty of the desserts proved irresistible. “I couldn’t stop,” he said.


Below is a gallery of Wayne’s Aleck comic strips from 1944 and 1945 issues of Wing Tips.












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