Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)
Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)

Gift Box

Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)
Thiebaud, W.
Gift Box
signed and dated 'Thiebaud 1981' (lower right); signed and dated again 'Thiebaud 81' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
16 x 20 in. (40.5 x 51.4 cm.)
Painted in 1981
John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 1984.

Lot Essay

Greatly inspired by the painterly works of Richard Diebenkorn and David Park--whose influence is most distinguishable here--Wayne Thiebaud made the leap from commercial artist and educator to San Francisco galleries, where his depictions of pies, hot dogs and candy machines were not particularly well-received. However, one year later, Allan Stone offered him a one-man show at his gallery in New York, and it was an incredible success.

His first successful show at the Allan Stone Gallery in 1962 coincided with the rise of Pop art in New York and the work of artists like Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Roy Lichtenstein--whose work emphasized mass-produced, consumer imagery. Given Thiebaud's subject matter, he was not surprisingly meshed into this group; although he did not necessarily share their ideals. Thiebaud's painting is a result of his love of the manipulation of paint as well as the representation of objects. This is in contrast to the colder and more graphic appearance of the work of the Pop artists.

In a review of Thiebaud's early works, Diane Waldman discusses the artist's work in an equally applicable manner to his later works:

. . . he brings his considerable technical gifts: a fondness for paint and its handling, deriving ultimately from Abstract Expressionism and San Francisco figurative painting (mainly Diebenkorn) and his extraordinary knowledge of halation. The tactile materiality of his paint surface, at once sensual and vulgar, whether approximating meringue or flesh, invests each object with a heightened sense of reality. Simultaneously, by its own very real presence, it calls into question the very nature of that reality . . . Although his people and still-lifes are isolated from their immediate ambience, they retain the warmth and intimacy of the commonplace events which shaped them. Without their frame of reference, they become virtual abstractions, without relatedness or context; this also bestows upon them a certain pathos and an ironic grandeur (ArtNews, April 1966, pp. 39-41).

Just as Thiebaud's bakery counters and confectionary delights are nostalgic symbols of the wholesome American culture of the 1950s in which he grew up, Gift Box is perhaps a sardonic display of the materialistic culture we inhabit.

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