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Details
Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)
Sandwich
signed and dated 'Thiebaud 63' (lower right); signed and dated again and titled '"Sandwich" 1963 Thiebaud' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
8 x 12 in. (20.3 x 30.4 cm.)
Painted in 1963.
Provenance
Allan Stone Gallery, New York
William Copley Collection
Jack Glenn Gallery
John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco
Private collection, Washington, D.C.

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Jennifer Yum
Jennifer Yum

Lot Essay

Both intimate and expressive, Wayne Thiebaud's Sandwich is an important early painting of the artist's most celebrated subject: food. Executed a year after the exhibition that would catapult his career, at the Allen Stone Gallery in New York, Sandwich signals the break through moment when Thiebaud would begin to shift into his distinguished mature style, which would secure his position in the canon of American Art.
As both a lover of realism and a commercially trained artist, Thiebaud embraced the pureness and directness of geometric shapes, which he drew naturally out of the aesthetic delights of the common place. Nowhere is this so apparent as in the simple yet sophisticated composition of Sandwich in which the bold contours of a stacked square sandwich atop a round plate, garnished with an elliptical pickle on the side. As he explains, "At the end of 1959 or so I began to be interested in a formal approach to composition. I'd been painting gumball machines, windows, counters, and at that point began to rework paintings into much more clearly identified objects. I tried to see if I could get an object to sit on a plane and really be very clear about it. I picked things like pies and cakes - things based upon simple shapes like triangles and circles - and tried to orchestrate them." (Wayne Thiebaud quoted in Wayne Thiebaud: A Painting Retrospective exh. cat., Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 2000, p.15).
The introduction of his foodstuff still-lifes in the early 1960s, marked Thiebaud's abandonment of the dramatic Abstract Expressionist flourishes seen in his art as late at 1959. Thus, challenging himself to "see if I can't just present something as clear as I can" (Wayne Thiebaud quoted in Stephen C. McGough, Thiebaud Selects Thiebaud: A Forty-Year Survey from Private Collections, exh. cat., Cocker Art Museum, 1996, p. 10). Having spent most of his life in California, Thiebaud's adoption of languid brushstrokes and a gestural yet contained style of figuration, as seen in Sandwich, echoes the irresistible influence of the Bay Area Figurative Movement of which he was a key member.
Still, Sandwich is deeply rooted in Thiebaud's New York influences. The late 1950s was also a time when the artist began to rid his compositions of a horizon line in favor of a monochromatic blank background. In this regard, John Copeland notes, "It was not until he first became aware of Jasper John's Flag and Target paintings that Thiebaud fully realized the value inherent in the direction his own work was taking. More than anything else, it was John's use of white upon white and his thematic interplay between illusion and reality that expunged Thiebaud's doubts and hesitations." (John Copeland, "Introduction," in Wayne Thiebaud, exh. cat., Pasadena Art Museum, 1968, p.10).
The simplified scheme and rich impasto in Sandwich clearly extends beyond the boundaries of the quotidian subject matter. The palette of whites, creams, and grays dominate the picture, and accentuates the contour lines of the sandwich and plate. As Thiebaud expressly states, "There is something about white that has a very special appeal to me in relationship to my painting." (Wayne Thiebaud quoted in Wayne Thiebaud, "Wayne Thiebaud: An Interview." Wayne Thiebaud, exh cat., Pasadena Art Museum, 1968, p. 30). Evident in Sandwich one sees the tactility of Thiebaud's paint, that would bring his catapult his food creations into the pantheon of post-War American art.

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