Wayne Thiebaud: ‘Deadpan Style of Figuration’

“Untitled (Mountain and Clouds),” circa 1965. Credit… Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York [New York Times].

Wayne Thiebaud (1920-2021) is said to have painted daily to the end. He described himself as driven by “this almost neurotic fixation of trying to learn to paint.”

“It has never ceased to thrill and amaze me,” he said, “the magic of what happens when you put one bit of paint next to another… I wake up every morning and paint… I’ll be damned but I just can’t stop.”

“Flatland River,” 1997. Credit… Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA at ARS, NY [New York Times].

Thiebaud called himself a painter. Saying you’re an artist, he said, is “like a priest referring to himself as a saint.” That was for someone else to decide.

[Thiebaud’s] real subject, many critics said, was paint and the act of painting itself: the shimmering color and sensuous texture of thickly applied paint. He laid on paint so heavily that he often carved his signature instead of putting it on with the brush.

“Tulip Sundaes,” 2010. Credit… Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY [New York Times].

Artists whose influence Thiebaud, a lifelong teacher himself, acknowledged include: Thomas Eakins, John James Audubon, Jean-Siméon Chardin, Giorgio Morandi, Edward Hopper, Joaquín Sorolla, and Willem de Kooning. The statement that Thiebaud’s art was “grounded in slow, hard-earned craftsmanship” points to “perspiration” as a factor in making art.

Mr. Thiebaud, with his painting “Swimsuit Figures,” was honored in 2017 at an event held by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Credit… Jill Krementz [New York Times].

Sources: Associated Press, “Wayne Thiebaud, painter of cakes and San Francisco cityscapes, dies at 101,” theguardian.com, 12-26-21. Michael Kimmelmann, “Wayne Thiebaud, Playful Painter of the Everyday, Dies at 101,” NYTimes, 12-26-21.

(c) 2021 JMN — EthicalDative. All rights reserved

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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