Wayne Thiebaud's quintessentially American landscapes emit the brilliance and sunny energy of his particularly Californian aesthetic and optimistic style. In Reflected Landscape Thiebaud showcases his adaptation of the Abstract Expressionist's thick application of pigments combined with his signature treatment of broad planes of color haloed with light and shadow, and the use of brilliant color reminiscent of the French Impressionists.In this canvas as in many of his landscapes, Thiebaud references Josef Alber's color theory that the perception of color is altered by colors around it. Thiebaud surrounds the trees, bushes, and land by thick bands in multiple colors of equal intensity creating haloes of contrasting colors that vibrate with energy.
Born in Arizona in 1920, Thiebaud received his formal art training through the GI Bill at San Jos State College and the California State College in Sacramento. He received a teaching appointment at Sacramento Junior College in 1951, while still in graduate school, and, after a successful stint working amidst the Abstract Expressionists and showing work in New York in the 1950s, he settled permanently in San Francisco in the 1970s. It was in California that Thiebaud began the interrogation of the surrounding landscape that would remain central to his artistic development from that time onward. Inspired by the topography of the Bay Area and the Sacramento Valley, Thiebaud's canvas comes alive with flat planes of color that, at their most basic level, represent the shoreline, steep ridge, and varied trees and plants in the landscape in a distinctive combination of light, pattern, and perspective. The shimmering reflection of the trees and shoreline in the still water below exude the effervescence of a warm, clear, California morning. The quiet, somewhat neutral background of the sky occupies much of the upper two thirds of the canvas and allows the viewer to focus on the brilliantly hued landscape in relation to the space it occupies. Small hints of color striating the trees, hill, and shore add variation to the larger blocks of color and add visual interest to the work while the densely painted surface offers a tactile quality to the thickly painted canvas and emphasizes the two-dimensionality of the overall composition. In this work and his many other landscapes, Thiebaud continues his persistent dialogue between the constructs of realism and abstraction. In Reflected Landscape Thiebaud approaches his subject with his distinctly California style, featuring intense, clear light and color and richly handled paint that strikes a delicate balance between representation and abstraction and gives the work a strongly personal character.