I skipped last week because I was on the road visiting our daughter at Baylor in Texas. This week we resume with another great California painter, Wayne Theibaud.
You probably know Thiebaud’s work as a west coast variant of Pop art. And indeed, it is all about the Pop. But funny enough, his inspiration to become a master of the rich, sensuous application of paint came from one of his best friends, Willem De Kooning, the premier Abstract Expressionist of the 50s and beyond.
It might appear to be about the subject, Ice Cream. But look close and it’s just as much about the thick lusciousness of the paint. the brilliant saturation of color and the beautiful richness in the shadows. I learned all about color and shading by studying Thiebaud’s drawings and paintings. Do you see any gray or black in the shadows? No, and you won’t ever see those colors. His shadowed areas are the most brilliantly colored of his paintings.
Thiebaud didn’t do many nudes that have made it into the public sphere, but I love the few that have. This one in particular is exquisite. I love the brilliant, rich orange shaded area on the right of her breast and the periwinkle blue squiggle that is both shadow and reflection on her arm. Best of all is how he anchors her to the edge of the canvas by using the perfect ellipse of the hat shadow on the right.
And of course, since I am primarily a draftsman more than a painter you know I would likely find that his drawings are incredible as well, and so they are. The texture and richness are just out of this world.
Most of America, if they know of Thiebaud at all, know of his cakes, ice cream and other luscious dessert paintings. But it wasn’t until I saw his cityscapes and landscapes that I understood what a brilliant artist he was. Just as we saw with Diebenkorn (a friend of his), Thiebaud kept growing as an artist. he became a professor at UC Davis in the Sacramento River Delta area. The landscape of rivers and farms and small towns became a focus of his work. He was also not far from San Francisco with it’s incredible hills and city scenes. Both enthralled him.
If you ever want to see his work, it’s usually on the cover of the New Yorker magazine a number of times a year. It’s one of the reasons I subscribe.
You might be wondering, who is this woman and why am I putting her in this post? We visited Cape Cod in 2009 and as the sun set we had dinner at a harbor restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. The sun was hitting the hostess just right and I considered asking her if I could take her picture. Then I saw the Wayne Thiebaud painting in the background and that sealed the deal. I asked and she said yes. What you say? They had a Thiebaud painting in the restaurant? No, the world had BECOME a Thiebaud painting right before my eyes. The rich, bright, beautiful color of sunlight with the cool deep blues and green shadows all perfectly combined in geometric and curvilinear glory took my breath away.
One of the best, most precious benefits of loving and studying art is that it will forever allow you to see art in the real world. It is never not there, you only have to look for it. Where do you find art?
- Week #10 – Coco Larrain
- Week #9 – Nina Levy
- Week #8 – Andy Goldsworthy
- Week #7 – Wayne Thiebaud
- Week #6 – Richard Diebenkorn
- Week #5 – Roy Lichtenstein
- Week #4 – Thomas Hart Benton
- Week #3 – Edward Hopper
- Week #2 – Henri Matisse
- Week #1 – Rembrandt