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Details
Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920)
Long Beach
signed, inscribed and dated '? Thiebaud 2003' (lower left); signed again, inscribed again and dated again '? Thiebaud 2003' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
35 7/8 x 24 in. (91.1 x 60.9 cm.)
Painted in 2003.
Provenance
Paul Thiebaud Gallery, San Francisco
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2004

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Joanna Szymkowiak
Joanna Szymkowiak

Lot Essay

A key example of a series of paintings produced between 2003 and 2005, Long Beach resumes the theme of Californian beach life and culture, which Wayne Thiebaud first explored as early as 1959.

Preserving his signature style of rich impasto and dexterous brushwork typical of his iconic renditions of foodstuffs started in the 1960s, this work addresses another aspect of the commonplace: one populated by leisurely beachgoers from a bygone era. His works are stories about a West Coast that lives on through his memory, like the pies that he never drew from life but instead are fragments of his childhood fancies. Long Beach deals with the every-day from the perspective of an adult reflecting on his years growing up there working as a life guard and on the time spent with his wife and children in their second home in the nearby Laguna Beach.

The striking diagonal division of the canvas, dotted with tidily aligned figures, heightens a sense of temporality and motion. The vivid palette of the canvas enhances its animation and pays homage to Morandi and Matisse who guided Thiebaud in the development of that highly sophisticated color theory where hues “vibrate when you put them next to each other” (W. Thiebaud, quoted in C. McGuigan, “Wayne Thiebaud Is Not a Pop Artist,” Smithsonian Magazine Online, 2011). Though popular culture remains a central theme throughout his practice, his work is closer to the narrative lyricism of Edward Hopper than the cold representation of Andy Warhol, setting his work apart in the landscape of post-war American art history.

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