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Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)
Property from an Important American Collection 
Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Menu Rose

Details
Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)
Menu Rose
signed and dated 'Thiebaud 07' (upper center); signed again 'Thiebaud' (on the reverse) and titled and dated again 'Menu Rose 2007' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
16 x 12 in. (40.6 x 30.4 cm.)
Painted in 2007.
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist, 2009

Lot Essay

Wayne Thiebaud's Menu Rose, 2007, shows a cropped snap shot of Americana--a humble flower juxtaposed with a familiar icon, the retro diner menu. With Thiebaud's more recent focus on the California beachscapes of his childhood, cityscapes, and the figure, Menu Rose is evocative of Thiebaud's most iconic early work, which depict images of popular culture of the delicatessen and bakery counters of the 1950s and 60s. Thiebaud's compositions and style express a personal sense of retrospective: "It has long been his practice to mine his near photographic memory for salient images that signify his past. Whether it is a display of nostalgic candy apples or recollections Southern California's beach culture" (G. Cooper, "Wayne Thiebaud: Beach Memories," in Wayne Thiebaud 70 Years of Painting, exh. cat., Palm Springs Art Museum, 2009, p. 29). Thiebaud's use of bright, candy colors combined with the focus on popular culture are choices reminiscent of his background as a commercial artist--Menu Rose exemplifies the ease with which Thiebaud's work may be disseminated to and loved by a wide audience. Commissioned by The New Yorker magazine for the cover of its annual "Food" issue in 2007, Menu Rose combines a thing of universal beauty, the rose, with a staple of classic New York, the diner.
While Thiebaud's use of bright colors and subject matter from the everyday suggest an affinity with Pop art, certain details align his works with more traditional realism. The glorification of the everyday object, so prevalent in the works of Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist, and others, is reflected in the aesthetic attention these artists trained on the visual details of everyday commodities. However, it is Thiebaud's technique that serves to create a sense of reminisce that sets him apart: Thiebaud's use of long shadows cast by images of popular culture from the 1950s and 60s diner era come to represent "a world constructed equally of memory and longing" for an era of Americana gone by (Ibid. 15). The shadows themselves become snapshots of gestural abstractions when studied in detail, as large blue strokes provide the basis for thick red and purple brushstrokes left unblended. In Menu Rose, Thiebaud composes his subject matter as a classical still life--the rose in a vase backed by a simple diner menu, both formed with equal care out of thick, smooth applications of paint. Using thick, horizontal brush strokes, Thiebaud has aestheticized not only the flower but also the entire composition. Thiebaud utilizes the painterly technique to highlight details--from the shadow to the colors that shape the translucent vase, to the multiple colors that merge to create a pink rose. While the small scale of the piece draws the viewer close by operating between abstraction and realism, Menu Rose also exemplifies Thiebaud's continued interest in the way memory and presence enhance the simple joys in the most ordinary of surroundings.

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