Wayne Thiebaud's exquisite work on paper of a row of éclairs is a potent example of the artist's ability to transform simple objects into works that are visually appealing and yet humorous and also oddly moving at the same time. Situated on one of the artist's characteristic white backgrounds, the layers of pastry, cream, chocolate and frosting emerge from the surface of the canvas by means of Thiebaud's characteristically generous application of paint that so closely mimics the luscious layers of confectionary that he so lovingly replicates.
Formally at least this work bears all the hallmark of Thiebaud's unconventional sense of composition. Positioned slightly off center, the lusciousness of the subject is contrasted by deep lavender shadows next to each éclair. This odd juxtaposition of the comforting and familiar with the harshness of the situation embody qualities which are apparent in Thiebaud's very best work. Despite the familiarity of the subject matter there is often something about his work that is unnerving. The contrast between the soft, saccharine nature of the cream filing and the strict geometry of the shadows is striking; Thiebaud's masterful paint handling technique orchestrates these varying elements into a symphony of paint and color.
For over half a century, Thiebaud has produced works that are a painterly investigation of American life through its objects, people, streets and landscapes, always realized in a deliciously painted but highly controlled manner. Thiebaud looks for larger truths in small gestures and some of his smallest works are amongst the most tantalizing, with each precise brushstroke producing so much detail that even the smallest work comes alive with excitement and color.
Thiebaud's images of cakes and confectionary are amongst the highlights of his career. In them, he plays the role of their creator. He is not merely reproducing the work of a skilled confectioner, with is self-assured love of pigment he becomes the confectioner, using his brush instead of a palette knife and piping bag to perfect his craft. Using the same collection of skills and techniques, Thiebaud applies his medium to the surface of the paper and in the process creates a delicious and tantalizing concoction that has the power to make the eye almost salivate with visual anticipation.