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    Sale 2049

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Morning Session

    13 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 179

    Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

    Untitled (Cityscape)

    Price Realised  

    Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)
    Untitled (Cityscape)
    signed and dated 'Thiebaud '86' (lower right); signed again and dated again' Thiebaud 1986' (on the reverse)
    oil on canvas
    28 x 18 in. (71.1 x 45.7 cm.)
    Painted in 1986.


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    Untitled (Cityscape) of 1986 is an exquisite example of Wayne Thiebaud's fascination with the urban landscape of California, where he has lived for almost his entire life. Thiebaud's interest in the city dates back to his childhood. His Uncle Lowell's occupation as a roadmaker initially sparked his appreciation of urban geography: "When I was about 8 years old, he gave me a little toy bulldozer and scraper and cars, and invited me to go and make this little world out in the backyard. And, for some reason or other, it was a very intriguing and memorable thing to do. I had this earth place where I could make roads, tunnels, little buildings, and trees and make my own worldandI've remained interested in the city as a human enterprise, and the pile of human tracks it contains and the byways of living and moving" (W. Thiebaud, quoted in an interview with Richard Wollhiem, Wayne Thiebaud: Cityscapes, San Francisco, 1993, n.p.).

    Thiebaud began seriously perusing urban landscape as a subject in 1973 when he purchased a second home in San Francisco. Inspired by the dramatic vantage points and pitched perspectives of the city's topography, Thiebaud began his series of cityscapes. As the artist remarks, "I was playing around with the abstract notions of edge - I was fascinated, living in San Francisco, by the way different streets just came in and then just vanished. So I sat out on a street corner and began to paint them." (Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, exh. cat., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 2000, p. 58). From the hilly San Francisco streets, drawing pad in hand, Thiebaud makes a multitude of sketches (emulating the working method of his idol Edward Hopper), which he later reworks and compiles into larger paintings back in his studio. This composite technique allows Thiebaud to blend reality with his own vision.

    Pinpointing the precise San Francisco street that Thiebaud may have been inspired by is an elusive quest, rather the artist would try to work from a particular neighborhood's sensibilities to create a painting that reflects quintessential San Franciscan charm. Blending fact and fiction, Thiebaud executes his cityscapes by starting "off with certain feelings, certain attitudes," then annotating the indigenous forms of the landscape to fit his desired result. Despite taking the artistic liberties of abstraction, Thiebaud maintains a sense of realism by painting the city's inherent grittiness, while at the same time portraying the "shiny, bright, brassy diamond-like things" (W. Thiebaud, quoted in an interview with Richard Wollhiem, Wayne Thiebaud: Cityscapes, San Francisco, 1993, n.p.).

    The dramatically tilted picture plane of Untitled (Cityscape), thrusts the complex pictorial surface forward to become almost parallel with the canvas' surface. This plummeting verticality consumes the viewer within the rich swathes of paint reflecting what is undeniably San Francisco-the steep hills and striking vistas. As such, the cars seem to waterfall down the road, yet somehow remain grounded.
    Unlike Richard Diebenkorn, another master of the Californian landscape, Thiebaud did not sublimate his urban landscapes into ethereal abstractions. Instead, Thiebaud's cityscapes are filled with the pulse of life and individualized details, from the colors of cars speeding along the dark asphalt to the dizzying heights of the jeweled skyscrapers. Thiebaud's unique combination of representation and abstraction, seriousness and wit, fluidity and structure, transforms Untitled (Cityscape) into an aesthetic fantasy that is almost surreal in its effect.

    Provenance

    Allan Stone Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from a Distinguished Bay Area Collection

    This formidable collection offers a rare look at one of the most prolific periods of experimental painting on the West and East coasts in the mid to late 20th century. This collection compellingly illustrates that a distinct discipline of abstract art developed in the San Francisco Bay Area, independent of the renowned New York School who practiced an all-over painting technique.
    The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionists embraced a unique style of abstraction and realism during the 1940s through the 60s, turning to their immediate surroundings for their inspiration. While focusing on the San Francisco School, this collection juxtaposes what artists were producing on both coasts in post World War II America. The Collection also carries the imprimatur of the noted art dealer Allan Stone, who a presence both in New York and San Francisco became a friend and influence to these collectors.

    From Richard Diebenkorn's brilliantly coloured aerial landscapes to Wayne Thiebaud's deliciously impastoed pop infused still-life and cityscape paintings, to Elmer Bischoff's emotionally infused figurative paintings, there is one element that flows throughout their work: the California light. Uniquely West Coast form and colour is clearly evident in Diebenkorn's seminal Landscape with Figure. Produced three years after the artist returned to the Bay Area after living in New Mexico and Illinois, a time when the artist softened his palette and began incorporating recognizable imagery and motifs into his abstractions, Landscape with Figure exemplifies this pairing by incorporating Diebenkorn's iconic 'club' and a sensual pink rose within the pastoral setting. Turning to the city for a subject, Wayne Thiebauds Untitled (Cityscape) exaggerates the steep terrain of the San Francisco topography by using colour and light. Here Thiebaud captures the legendary terrain by painting a patchwork of candy-like colours and playfully illustrating cars motoring up the mountainous hill.

    The radiant Californian palette is further illustrated in Thiebaud's Four Jars of Cold Cream. By taking common jars of cold cream, casting them in this West Coast light and using a sumptuous and gracious application of paint the artist transforms and elevates a pedestrian household object into an elegant work of art. The soft palette of Diebenkorn's Still Life with Book, sophisticatedly captures the routine act of reading over a cup of coffee in this quiet setting. Here the artist, like Thiebaud turned to the immediate surroundings of his studio for a subject matter.

    Elmer Bischoff's masterful use of colour and light in Woman Putting on Stocking exemplifies the emotional and psychological intensity that Bischoff emphasized in his canvases. Bischoff uses the West Coast pallet as a means of reengaging with the figure as a subject matter. The depiction of the nearly nude female figure putting on stockings creates a tension that makes the viewer question the sensual connotations of the piece.

    Unlike the Bay Area artists, Dine's modernist approach has long been associated with the Pop movement, principally for his obsessive repetition of everyday images and domestic objects. The artist employed repetition to reinvent ordinary motifs such as in Double Bathrobe. Working from an advertisement of a bathrobe from the New York Times, Dine first used the image of a bathrobe in 1964 to create a self-portrait. The bathrobe motif became the basis for a recurring self-portrait, making Double Bathrobe and double self-portrait.

    Willem de Kooning's Untitled clearly illustrates the artist's painterly abstractions. Here the artist took an ordinary newspaper and slashed it with colour and eloquent brushstrokes of vibrant paint to form a beautiful example of his all over painting technique.

    Richard Estes is regarded as one of the founders of the Photo-Realist movement that emerged in the late 1960s. His subject matter was that of his immediate urban surrounding: New York City. J & H Grocery expands the viewer's sensory range, allocating an exaggerated focus on a specific setting of a grocery store, using the reflection of the window to further expand the depth of the metropolitan vista. Estes creates an extrasensory experience through meticulously calculated layers of color and his municipal palette and attention to detail.

    Also included in this collection is a significant work by New York based artist John D. Graham (1881-1961, a refugee from czarist Russia). The artist is recognized for his influence on the early years of American Modernism. Linda and the Swan represents Graham's transition towards a more mysterious and imaginative style in which the artist painted portraits of imaginary women, drawing on classical art as subjects. Linda and the Swan draws upon the Greek Myth of Leda and the Swan, in which Zeus takes on the form of a Swan and rapes Leda. Linda and the Swan portrays an imaginary woman,'Linda', set against a flat background creating a sense of tension and detachment from a specific space and time. Graham often painted his portraits with staring eyes, furthering the tension within the work: as though the Mona Lisa meets Medusa.



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