WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
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Property from the Collection of Shirley Ross Davis
WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)

Peppermint Stick

Details
WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
Thiebaud, W.
Peppermint Stick
incised with the artist's signature and date 'Thiebaud 2011' (upper right); signed and dated 'Thiebaud 2011' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm.)
Painted in 2011.
Provenance
Acquavella Galleries, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2017

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Lot Essay

Painted in 2011, Peppermint Stick distills the unique talent that made Wayne Thiebaud an American titan. A stick of peppermint candy, swathed in bright hues and impasto curves, extends suggestively past the tabletop surface as if ready to be plucked from the picture. Its contrasting shadow, a brilliant blue, overlaps a haloed edge, splitting the canvas into fields of white and buttercream. With exuberant brushwork and striking perspective, Peppermint Stick showcases Thiebaud’s ability to tease out hidden expressive power from seemingly ordinary objects.

Thiebaud’s painted confectionaries, the major output of his oeuvre, are not just his signature subject but also a cornerstone of the American artistic canon. The familiar sensory images of cakes, candy sticks, lollipops, and ice cream cones evoke a bygone era of dessert counters and penny candy shops recalled from the artist’s own childhood. In Peppermint Stick, Thiebaud reconstitutes a boyhood marvel—mouthwatering candy, seen from below in a shop window or table—to pure, dazzling form, ringed by his distinctive complementary-colored halos. “I went into Kress’s or Woolworth’s or Newberry’s, to see the eccentric display of peppermint candy,” the artist reminisces, “It’s the exclusionary aspect that gets me—there's a lot of yearning there" (W. Thiebaud, quoted in A. Gopnik, An American Painter, Wayne Thiebaud: A Paintings Retrospective, exh. cat., Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, 2000, p. 55).

His handling of pigment, influenced by the sultry application of painters like Willem de Kooning and Giorgio Morandi, as well as Paul Cézanne’s fascination with form, has earned a much-admired seniority among contemporary realist painters. Curator and collector John Wilmerding notes, “He is possibly the only, and certainly the foremost, artist in recent modern art to fuse seamlessly essential aspects of the two major artistic developments over the last half-century: the expressive brushwork of Abstract Expressionism and the commercial realism of Pop art” (Wayne Thiebaud: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New York, Acquavella Galleries, 2012, p. 11). Much like his rows of cakes, pies, and gumball machines, the rhythmic repetitions of candy swirls in the present work align with the sequencing of shapes found in simultaneous conceptual movements, such as Donald Judd’s progression sculptures or Carl Andre’s metal plates.

Still lifes, particularly of desserts, were a constant throughout Thiebaud’s career, providing the building blocks for much of his imagery: observation, recollection and imagination. His foodstuffs, and perhaps most of all his candies, evoke a childlike optimism that taps into our earliest emotional resonances. The simple peppermint stick emerges here not only as a nostalgic relic of the past but as a painterly icon, as sweet to the eye as if it once was in our grasp.

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