WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection
WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)

Café Cart

WAYNE THIEBAUD (1920-2021)
Café Cart
signed and dated '? Thiebaud 2012' (lower left); signed and dated again '? Thiebaud 2012' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.)
Painted in 2012
Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2012.
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., Wayne Thiebaud: A Retrospective, October-November 2012. pp. 156 and 186 (illustrated in color, p. 157).
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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Presenting a dazzling display of Wayne Thiebaud’s iconic cakes and pastries, Café Cart is a nostalgic return to the artist’s origins. Painted in 2012, this work continues his painterly exploration of confectionary and baked goods as a way of capturing the contemporary zeitgeist of the American psyche. Thiebaud’s first exhibition of this subject matter at Allan Stone’s New York gallery during the early 1960s began a prodigious artistic career that would span decades, during which his continued reimagination of the traditional still-life genre would garner both delight and critical acclaim. Carefully-rendered quotidian culinary characters within Café Cart showcase Thiebaud’s artistic maturity and technical prowess, enticing the viewer visually while simultaneously eliciting sweet, hazy memories of a bygone era.
Eight meticulously-plated pastries, pies, cakes and candies are carefully arranged on the top of the cart, rendered in the artist’s sensuous brushstrokes. Chromatically rich hues result in glowing silhouettes formulated by pools of cool blue and flickering strokes of yellow and green. The “halation” of these prismatic shadows have become one of Thiebaud’s most celebrated features. Glossy strokes of nearly-neon shades of green, yellow and orange conjure mouth-watering notes of citrus, while rich, chocolatey-browns and creamy pinks imbue a moist decadence. The luxuriant impasto of the meringue, glistening ooze of macerated berries, and playfully patterned candies are juxtaposed against a pressed white tablecloth, crisp both in shade and lineation. Thiebaud’s placement of the desserts in the upper half of the composition creates a lowered perspective, presenting the medley of confections at eye-level, just as the viewer would catch a glimpse of the café cart rolling past in real time. The deep burgundy background surrounds the café cart like curtains that would frame a stage, the cart and its contents becoming the center of the viewer’s focus.
“Staring fixedly at an object does something to expand time,” Thiebaud has written. “The more you look at it, the more the edges, the inside and the minute particles quiver. It is almost as if it is loaded and you recognize a kind of stillness which tends to vibrate. When I stroke around the object with a loaded paintbrush it is calculated to echo the presence of that object” (quoted in J. Coplans, Wayne Thiebaud, exh. cat., Pasadena Art Museum, 1968, p. 35-36).
Thiebaud’s use of seriality and imagery rooted in objects intended for consumption reflect the artist’s background in commercial advertising that was shared by many of his contemporaries of the Pop Art movement, such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. However, Thiebaud’s emphasis on shadow and form calls upon traditions of realism, evoking a reverence for the still lifes of Giorgio Morandi and even the Dutch Masters centuries prior. The deceptively simple subject matter is a still life reimagined, emboldening its presence as a meditative reflection on American life à la Edward Hopper and Norman Rockwell. The artist’s nuanced approach to incorporating and absorbing traditions of a variety of art historical movements produces a style which is entirely his own. Café Cart is a testament to Thiebaud’s stylistic mastery, reappraising his iconic confectionary motifs with undiminished reverence and agility to create a painting that is both emotionally evocative and visually satiating.

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