Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)
Desk Set
signed and dated 'Thiebaud 1972' (upper left)
pastel on paper
16 x 20 in. (40.6 x 50.8 cm.)
Executed in 1972.
Allan Stone Gallery, New York
Thomas Segal Gallery, Boston
Foster Goldstrom Gallery, Dallas
Collection of 7-Eleven, Inc., Irving
Their sale; Sotheby's, New York, 16 May 2001, lot 103
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Newport Harbor Art Museum; Milwaukee Art Museum; Columbus Museum of Art and Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Wayne Thiebaud, September 1985-November 1986, pp. 81 and 174, no. 37, pl. 28 (illustrated).

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Joanna Szymkowiak
Joanna Szymkowiak

Lot Essay

In Wayne Thiebaud’s Desk Set, we see all the hallmarks of the artist’s unique ability to take everyday objects and elevate them to things of subtle and serene beauty. Most of Desk Set’s surface is occupied by the verdant green desk pad, upon which are three neatly organized, perfectly rendered pencils. In the background, we see a few additional implements: a pen in its holder, and a set of envelopes; each is shrouded by the artist’s evocative shadow—enigmatically rendered in delicate shades of mauve, purple and blue.
This combination of composition and painterly treatment of the pastel medium lends this work a richly ethereal quality and displays Thiebaud’s ability to convey classical painterly styles with a contemporary American twist, a virtue for which is rightly renowned.

Thiebaud is known to have painted many of his works from memory, and in distilling his subject through his own imagination, he bestows on each object an interpretive quality, together with the sense that it is composed to satisfy his visual ideals rather than straightforward reproduction of reality. Heralded for his distinguishing abilities, Thiebaud’s style owes as much to his training in professional illustrating, in addition to his admiration for the work of earlier masters such as Giorgio Morandi, and the innovations of Pop artists of the 1960s. In Desk Set we see these influences converge, and the richness of its vivid palette, the softness of its lines, and the sensuousness of the pastel, all stand as stunning examples of Thiebaud’s accomplishment and originality.

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